Christina Zaluso is a farmer, mother of 3 young children and chief breadwinner since her husband husband has a chronic illness. They live in the Dedza District of Malawi in an area which has faced recurrent dry spells in recent times.
In the past, Christina grew maize to feed the family and earned a small income from selling the surplus. But it wasn’t enough to enable her to buy improved seed or to invest in new technologies. After repeated periods of drought, her crop yields dwindled, leaving the family facing days without food. Christina had to take on cleaning jobs to make ends meet, leaving less time to spend with her family and farm.
Christina told us that it was only after the ASPIRE Revolving Loan Scheme arrived in her village, Ntolo, that things began to improve. On joining the Nachikunga Community Grain Bank, she received a loan of 20 kg of soya beans, together with training in growing the crop, new technologies and how to manage repayments.
During her first season, Christina harvested 550 kg of soya beans, and earned an income 8 times bigger than the original ‘loan’. She was also able to repay the scheme with three bags of maize of the same value as the soya beans she’d originally ‘borrowed’.
Being able to farm more efficiently and effectively has had a huge impact on Christina’s family. Not only can they now eat regularly but she’s been able to upgrade the roof on their home and buy a bicycle for the household. Whereas in the past, her daughter often missed school because of the long walk, she can now get there by bike.
Christina has already started preparing for the new planting season and has high aspirations for the future: ‘I have acquired good seed and skills in agronomic practices and technologies. I will now be able to support my children in school, my future looks bright"
The ASPIRE programme (Achieving Sustainable Poverty Reduction through Increased Inclusive Resilience and Empowerment) is a 5 year long programme by Irish Aid and United Purpose to break the vicious cycle of poverty and insecurity in Dedza, Malawi. Revolving loans offer flexibility for small scale producers. Borrowers replay their loans to a central fund, which can then make loans to other projects. Christina is just one of 25,000 people receiving support through ASPIRE.
To learn more about what United Purpose does in Malawi click here.