A home-grown solution to African hunger
Monday, February 13, 2006
DOWA, MALAWI ? Imagine a modern-day Eden – tended by a cheerful garden gnome – sprouting in the Sahara Desert. That’s the feeling you get, walking onto a 50-acre farm bursting with rows of healthy corn, thick sugar-cane stalks, and plump mangoes – all at the epicenter of Africa’s growing food crisis, with its 18 million hungry people.
It’s tended by a sprightly grandfather named Glyvyns Chinkhuntha, a man with no formal agricultural training, but a spirit of innovation, and a reverence for Roman aqueducts. Using just hoes and shovels, he’s built an elaborate gravity-driven irrigation system of earthen berms and inch-deep trenches. It’s revolutionary in a country where just 2 percent of farmers’ land is irrigated – despite the close proximity of a lake larger than Lake Erie in the US.
In fact, people here see Dr. Chinkhuntha as a kind of water wizard of Malawi. He’s proof, some say, that despite climate change, poverty, and other obstacles, home-grown solutions do exist for Africa’s recurring hunger problems.
(…) So how does Chinkhuntha succeed where so many African farmers fail? It isn’t loads of chemical fertilizers. He uses none. Most of his plants are covered with a layer of farm waste – half-decayed leaves and roots. “Organic fertilizer,” he says, cheerily, “is the solution for Africa.”