It was great to see the progress at our project at Chinteche, right on the shore of Lake Malawi. It is a very beautiful place with virtually unlimited water (Lake Malawi is bigger than Wales and is the third deepest lake in the world) and yet, at Chinteche, most families only grow cassava, a low value crop of limited nutritional value. To see our highly productive greenhouses there is like an oasis in the desert.
We are now 12 months into this project and there have been challenges along the way – disease and extreme heat have both meant that we have had to make changes to the kit on site. However, we are now seeing tomato and pepper production ramping up with 5 tonnes in June, 7 tonnes in July and heading steadily towards the overall target of 30 tonnes each and every month of the year. That’s a lot of good food and a huge boost to the incomes of the 135 women who are growing the crops.
With drip irrigation, pest control, and the greenhouses themselves, our social enterprise company is living up to it’s name – Modern Farming Technologies. We have just completed the last of the 45 greenhouse installations at Chinteche and we are seeing increasing numbers of visitors coming to learn how this is done and what it can mean for the Malawi economy. One small part is the fact that we tie the tomato plants to the metal frames of the greenhouse. Normally, when tomatoes are grown in Malawi the plants are tethered to sticks – 2 young trees which are chopped down for each and every tomato plant. So we have 45 greenhouses with 315 plants in each meaning that we are saving 28,350 young trees each year!
Outside the greenhouses it was good to see the used sacks getting a second life. Once we have grown tomatoes once, we need to change the sacks to avoid a build up of disease. There are a lot of good nutrients in that soil, though, because of the manure that was added and the fertilisers. So, although they can’t be used for tomatoes again, the sacks are great for growing other vegetables which the women can sell or use for their own families needs.
So many good things. So much more to say…..but you probably get the idea that I love this project!