Helping families rebuild their lives: Foodgrains Bank executive director visits communities devastated by cyclone in Malawi

from Canadian Foodgrains Bank
Published on 18 Sep 2019

As Jim Cornelius drove through southern Malawi, weaving down sandy roads and looking out at fields covered in dried-up soil, it was hard to believe that just six months ago the same land was completely flooded.

"We were told that in some areas, the water was knee-high," says the executive director of Canadian Foodgrains Bank. "In others, it was well over an adult's head."

When Cyclone Idai made landfall in mid-March, heavy rains and flooding destroyed homes and crops across Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, affecting 3 million people.

"Farmers in southern Malawi were just a few weeks away from harvesting when the cyclone hit," says Cornelius. "Many lost all their crops. And for the crops that weren't washed away, the yields were quite low because of water logging."

A time of year that's typically focused on producing food to last during the dry season became a time of worry and uncertainty. Cornelius heard story after story of how farm families didn't harvest any food.

"One particular story, of a farmer named Kalisto Rular, sticks with me" says Cornelius.

When the heavy rains and flooding reached Malawi, Rular, his wife and their three children watched as their house collapsed. They lost all their crops in the flooding, and most of their household items were washed away.

"It was sobering to sit there, look Kalisto in the eye and hear how he struggled to provide for his family," says Cornelius. "But I'm thankful our members and their partners were there to help."

Through Foodgrains Bank member Presbyterian World Service & Development (PWS&D), Rular and his family received monthly rations of maize flour, beans and cooking oil. They also received maize and vegetable seeds to help grow food for their family in the longer-term. "I am grateful for the help I've received," Rular told Cornelius. "Thank you for your support. It's something we don't take for granted."

*Foodgrains Bank members respond**

Through three of its members, with support from the Government of Canada, the Foodgrains Bank is supporting 35,000 people in Malawi as they recover from the cyclone.

In addition to providing 10,000 people like Kalisto with emergency food, PWS&D and the Foodgrains Bank also provided seeds to help them in the longer-term, as well as a fortified porridge to families with children under the age of five to ensure they are getting the nutrients they need during this tough time.

Through a local partner of Nazarene Compassionate Ministries Canada, the Foodgrains Bank provided 5,000 people with monthly food rations and fortified porridge to families with children under the age of one. Five hundred families also received seed.

Another project, through World Renew, provided 8,600 people with emergency food distributions for four months. Once the water receded and markets re-opened, an additional 11,400 people received cash distributions for two months to purchase food.

"This support gives me hope for families forced to rebuild their lives," says Cornelius. "Despite the current dry season, we saw glimmers of green sprouting up from the seeds provided. It's still a long road to recovery, but this Canadian support is helping families take steps in the right direction."

To arrange an interview with Cornelius, contact Shaylyn McMahon at 1-204-471-9195 or High resolution photos available.