Aiesha is a single mother from Chiradzulu in Malawi, where over 40 per cent of children under five suffer from chronic malnutrition and stunted growth.
After her husband left her, Aiesha became the head of her household and sole carer for her five kids. She struggled to grow enough food for everyone, and the family was hungry for three months of every year (known as the ‘hungry season’). Often the family only had one or two meals per day.
A golden opportunity
When Aiesha’s village chief told her about an opportunity to learn how to grow orange-fleshed sweet potatoes (OFSP), she was eager to try.
“I was already growing white-fleshed potato, so I was interested to work with the project,” she said.
Aiesha attended a training series covering seed production, crop management, storage, and cooking with different potato recipes. She received 100 bundles of OFSP vines to kick-start her crop, as well as ongoing advice and support through field visits.
“The processing of sweet potato has been very useful to me,” she said. “I learned how to make mandazi (donuts) and chips. I liked this – I came home and made new things straight away for my kids.”
Aiesha now has more food for her children – they have three meals almost every day. She also earns extra income by selling 50 per cent of each crop at market.
“People like sweet potato more than the white ones,” said Aiesha. “It is more profitable. With the extra income, I buy fertiliser for my vegetable gardens, hire labour to help me in the fields, and also pay school fees for the children.”
Beating hunger and malnutrition
OFSP is an important source of beta-carotene and Vitamin A, which is vital for improving children’s nutrition, boosting immunity, and maintaining healthy vision.
Since this project began in Chiradzulu, stunting among children under five has fallen by 22 per cent. There is also near-universal understanding among the community of the nutritional value of sweet potato.
“Many things have changed for me because of the project,” said Aiesha. “Before, I had many financial problems. It was hard to feed everyone. Now I have more food in the house. The hungry season is about a month or less, sometimes a few weeks only.
“I want to be food-secure all year round. I am nearly there and I am happy.”
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Sustainable Development Goals
This project is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).