We managed to find some diesel yesterday so we’ve been able to get out in the fields to visit our newest project. The rule at the filling station is that you can only fill your fuel tank – they won’t let you fill cans. This is to stop people hoarding fuel and then selling on the black market when there are shortages again. The person in front of me had taken this literally and was there at the pumps with the tank off a car. I assume he had found a scrap car, removed the fuel tank, and here he was telling the girl at the pumps that he was filling a car tank and that this was within the rules!

You drive on a dirt track for 10km and suddenly these greenhouses appear in front of you.

We have two projects on a beautiful site in the shadow of two hills. With support from the Co-op Foundation we are erecting 20 greenhouses for melons, butternut squash, peppers and tomatoes. We are trying to stimulate investment in modern farming by Malawians who live in the city and we have two groups: ten greenhouses are owned by businesswomen and the other ten by agriculture graduates. In total there are over 70 investors. Malawi Fruits is coordinating the training and growing and we are buying all the produce so there is a guaranteed market. The actual work in the greenhouses will be done by local people living around the site and will be the first time that they have had a job paying a monthly wage.

The village houses are right beside the greenhouses. Ten are up already with the others to be erected next week and a borehole is being drilled for water for irrigation and a tap for the village

Just 500 metres from the greenhouses is the site for our Missing Middle Farm. The idea is that while there are thousands of smallholders in Malawi, plus a few large foreign-owned plantations, there is a missing middle of Malawian-owned mixed farms. We are still at an early stage, but plans are progressing well for the first “Missing Middle” farm. Again, we have Malawian investors and they have raised the money to buy the land and get it cleared and prepared. We will then install drip irrigation on the whole area – about 25 football pitches – and local villagers will have jobs with regular wages as they grow a wide range of vegetables for sale to Malawi Fruits and for us to then sell on to the final customers. The land is on the bank of a river but it gets pretty dry at this time of year so we are drilling two boreholes as a back-up. All the water, whether from the river or the boreholes, is pumped using solar power.

The farm is on good quality land beside the river – a beautiful place.

I’m really looking forward to seeing how all this develops and will keep you updated in future blogs. My hope is that as time goes by, we will see these simple houses get steel roofs and solar power, and that these children will get better clothing and be able to go to secondary school – all paid for by the wages their parents can get from working on the farm.

Thanks to Tim Aikman for the photographs https://timothyaikman.com/