We are in the process of placing an order for another container of Futurepumps – the clever solar irrigation pumps which are proving to be a great asset for farmers in the North of Malawi. It’s a big investment for us – almost £80,000 – but this will give us another 200 pumps to add to the 520 we have deployed over the last 4 years. Last week I got a great reminder of what a Futurepump can do for a farmer and his or her family.

Alex Nyrienda with his Futurepump

Alex has a farm between the towns of Rumphi (where we have a base) and Bolero. His land is beside a perennial river which is a great asset and, until three years ago, he was drawing water using watering cans and growing rape and chard for local markets. Then he got a Futurepump through our project with the Church of Scotland Guild.

“I now grow five times as much as before, and I’m not exhausted by carrying all the water. My son is working with me when he is not at school and we both have bikes and I can pay school fees,” he tells me.

Alex’ business is growing and he will make the final payment for his pump in December – the main way we make pumps affordable to farmers is through rent-to-own which allows the farmers to pay for the pump over two or three years using the extra income they are generating through using it. I asked Alex what he was going to do at the end of the year when the pump is finally his: “Buy another one!” was his immediate response.

By growing green vegetables and staggering the planting, Alex is able to earn something every day. He is also supplying all the greens for Bolero Secondary School through an official supply contract. The rest are sold by local women who come and pick what they need, pay Alex for them, then head into town to sell. Alex is selling at 100 kwacha for 10 leaves and the women are able to get 200 kwacha which is a good mark up in return for their labour in picking, carrying and selling.

This little business really encouraged me: to see Alex doing well; his sons going to school but also working with him to learn about modern farming; and the women getting employment. Maybe we can do this another 200 times with this next consignment of Futurepumps.

As we were leaving, I asked about the crude scarecrows scattered around the field. “Do you have a lot of problems with birds,” I asked.

Alex looked puzzled and said, “These are to keep the hippos away, otherwise they come up the river and trample my crops.”

Of course, silly me!

The crude scarecrow -enough to fend off the hippos, apparently.