With possibly 3.2 million, or 70%, of the population facing starvation in Malawi (according to figures obtained by Der Spiegel v33/2002) the food security situation is dire. In partnership with the local community, SOS Children's Villages Lilongwe have entered into an innovative scheme to try and assist particularly vulnerable families.
Direct assistance with food
After much consultation with selected communities, SOS Children's Villages Malawi have intervened with short to medium term assistance by providing the most vulnerable in the community with a monthly ration of 25 kg of maize, 5 kg of beans and 2 kg of salt per month. The distribution is carried out by a relief team that has been specifically been put in place for the purpose and the village development committees in each of the selected villages. Local communities identified food shortages as a priority issue to enable them to remain self reliant in the difficult situation facing Malawi and surrounding countries.
Indirect assistance with agricultural inputs
In a related initiative, SOS Children's Villages have also enabled access to maize seed and fertilizer to help alleviate food insecurity. This came about after local communities requested assistance with a more sustainable solution to the problems which they are facing because the region has been severely hit by bad climatic conditions that in turn have affected national economies and food security.
Logistics of the project
The SOS Social Centre in Lilongwe is spearheading the initiative by targeting about 200 families in the project area with maize seed and fertilizer. With assistance where necessary from SOS Children's Villages, the communities have identified families who are considered needy by village standards. These families are then eligible for the farm inputs as a loan. Each household is expected to repay the inputs, in kind, by the end of this year.
To assist them with this, the households will receive special support, such as advice and demonstrations from the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation, who has become a partner in the exercise, alongside SOS Children's Villages. The demonstrations will also benefit other families in the village through the demonstration plots that have been set up in every village of the project area.
Mr. Kutin, President of SOS Children's Villages, launched the food security project personally in October 2002 while he was visiting the region.
Teamwork between the communities and SOS Children's Villages
In an address to one of the communities where the launch took place, he emphasized the need for self-reliance on the part of the community, saying that SOS is merely able to support their own efforts. During his address, Mr Kutin also talked about the need for orphans in the community to be treated the same as any other child in the village.
Following his presentation, Mr Kutin handed over a pack of maize seed and a pack of fertilizer to a granny-headed household. The household was representative of the many others who the community identified as helping to keep orphans in the communities and is less able to find food for themselves. Others considered are those that do not have any source of income and did not harvest anything the previous season. Identification of such households is done together by the relief team and the village development committees.