Ellen’s story: Less work, more pay

Posted on May 10, 2018

Ellen tends her crops in Malawi

Ellen lives in Thyolo in southern Malawi, one of the poorest countries in the world. She is a single mum with five children. After divorcing her husband, she found it extremely hard to grow enough food for her family. Her banana field, which was her sole source of income, was wiped out by disease. The crops she planted only lasted for seven months of the year. She had no one to help her.

“I used to run out of food and my children could not go to school because they were hungry,” said Ellen. “People mocked me because of my desperate situation.”

Opportunity knocks

One day, Ellen’s uncle came to visit. He told her about the benefits of conservation agriculture. He had heard about these new techniques, which improve soil quality, from a training event with our partner, United Purpose.

Ellen decided to try these techniques and saw a dramatic change on her plot of land. In her first season, she harvested 550kg of maize on her quarter acre – more than double her old yield. She then secured a second piece of land to cultivate more maize. Here, she harvested another 400kg, which she sold to repay her debts and pay for her family’s everyday needs.

On her own two feet

Now Ellen’s children are back at school. She has also bought goats and pigs to diversify her income, and her neighbours have greater respect for her.

“Conservation agriculture requires less work and the mulch protects the crops against weeds,” said Ellen. “I have food throughout the year and enough time to concentrate on other work.”

Africa Water Appeal

Prolonged drought in southern Africa is destroying crops and livelihoods. Please give a tax-deductible gift by 30 June to help us bring water systems to farmers like Ellen who are struggling to survive.