In-depth: United Nations Regional Inter-Agency Coordination Support Office for the Special Envoy for Humanitarian Needs in Southern Africa

MALAWI: Eunice - a food for work participant

Photo: WFP
Eunice Nakamba
JOHANNESBURG, 8 March 2004 (IRIN In-Depth) - Eunice Nakamba is 24 years old. She lives in Chiwanga in the Chitipa District, Malawi.

Pausing for a moment, Eunice Nakamba looks round at the baby strapped to her back. Just four months old, her child is sleeping peacefully – despite the fact that Eunice is busy digging away at a badly damaged section of the local road.

Along with many other inhabitants of Chiwanga, including her husband, Eunice is helping to rehabilitate the district’s rain-ruined infrastructure – under one of WFP’s Food-for-Work programmes. And while the work does benefit her community, it also provides Eunice and her family with enough food to survive.

Like most other people in this remote corner of Malawi, Eunice and her husband are subsistence farmers with only a few years of formal schooling between them. Typically, they also have a large family to feed – with four children of their own to care for as well as an orphaned four-year-old relative. But this year they have no food to feed them with.

With just a small, two-acre plot of land, Eunice and her husband were only able to harvest enough food to last them from July until October. In previous years, they have managed to scrape a living by resorting to ‘ganyu’ – agricultural labour in exchange for cash or food. It has operated as a type of community safety net for generations in Malawi. But in recent years, fewer and fewer households have had the resources to pay for ‘ganyu’ and people like Eunice have been forced to resort to other methods.

“In the past, we have often gone to sleep without eating,” said Eunice. “At other times, we’ve been forced to beg for food from our neighbours to survive.”

Today, however, Eunice is able to feed her family every day – just like 1,700 other people in Chitipa district, who are benefiting from the Food-for-Work projects being implemented by WFP and its partner, the Malawi Red Cross. By working for four hours a day for 20 days, Eunice receives a household ration composed of 50 kg of maize and 5 kg of beans – enough to keep her family going until the next harvest.

Meanwhile, by repairing the road that connects Eunice’s small community to the region’s main market town, the project is helping to expand economic opportunities and improve people’s access to vital services, such as health and education.
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