THE VICTORY GARDEN CAMPAIGN
HELPING FIGHT THE FOOD CRISIS IN MALAWI
Helping 100,000 Villagers Ward Off Famine
by Cultivating High-Yield Low-Cost Home Gardens
Face-to-Face's Victory Garden Campaign helps 100,000 drought-impacted Malawians stave off hunger by cultivating high-yield, low-cost home gardens. With Malawi facing its worst food crisis since 1985 due to severe drought, this innovative campaign provides long-term, sustainable relief to over 22,000 families at risk of food shortages.
A CRISIS IN THE MAKING
In 2016 Malawi’s maize harvest registered a 42% decline, the worst in years. A state of emergency was declared announcing that over half the nation’s population needed food assistance.
One typical farmer near Lilongwe, Mr. Kalekeni Chiundo, reported that his April 2016 maize harvest amounted to 1 oxcart, which is about $34. However, his expenses for seed, fertilizer, transport, bags and other items totaled $115 — a net loss of $81. In debt and with scant food supplies, Mr. Chiundo did not know how he would feed his family.
THE LAUNCH OF THE CAMPAIGN
Based on several years of experience piloting home garden projects, Face-to-Face launched the Victory Garden Campaign in July 2016. Kicking off with three weeks of community-led events in three tribal districts near Lilongwe, activities included farm demonstrations, youth sporting events, song and drama events and garden workshops, some of which were led by HIV+ mothers from the villages. The Campaign aims to mobilize the leaders of over 500 villages in five tribal chief districts, including the highest-ranking chiefs in each district, with the goal of giving them the skills and knowledge to fight their own war against hunger and drought by changing how they grow food.
HOW IT WORKS
In Malawi, villagers rely on a once-a-year maize harvest to feed themselves throughout the year. The Victory Garden Campaign teaches farmers like Mr. Chiundo how to create gardens by the house, something not traditionally done in Malawi. These small 2.5 square meter gardens utilize organic, bio-intensive, and permaculture practice enabling villagers to grow up to 25 kinds of plants, vegetables and small trees, ultimately boosting nutrition by increasing plant diversity.
Besides providing more food and nutrition, these Victory Gardens reduce the risk of relying solely on one crop (maize), increase income by selling surplus food, decrease costs by eliminating chemical fertilizers and pesticides, improve soil quality and reduce erosion.
Local community members like Silva wondered if she and her family would survive the famine of 2016. As part of F2F’s Victory Garden Campaign, other HIV+ mothers and F2F volunteers helped Silva create a Victory Garden in August 2016.
By September Silva’s garden thrived, even though learning new farming practices that make the most out of minimal water availability were very new to her. By November, Silva helped her neighbors create their own Victory Gardens, and compared to August when no one had a garden, a whopping 60% of homes in Silva’s village now do!
While millions of bags of food relief for Malawi pile up in distribution centers, Silva and her village are now counting on themselves to control their future. In fact in early December 2016 the Campaign surpassed 1,000 gardens. Many villages saw dramatic increases, due in part to neighbors teaching neighbors. Since home gardens are visible to everyone, people are naturally curious about these new sources of food, helping them re-envision the area around the home that is traditionally left as hard packed clay that is swept clean everyday.
HOW THE CAMPAIGN WILL REACH 100,000 PEOPLE
The Campaign uses peer-to-peer training to enable villagers to acquire new knowledge to put into practice. F2F works with the chief leadership structure to train 100 villagers as victory garden facilitators. These facilitators then teach 30 fellow villagers how to create victory gardens. Additional families learn how to make gardens through various activities in the villages.
The goal of the Campaign is to empower over 22,000 households to grow more food from their home victory gardens — 100,000 people based on an average of 4.5 people per family — by the beginning of 2018. Here is a simplified explanation of how the Campaign will reach 100,000 people
Step 1 Provide in-depth knowledge to 100 facilitators. In 10-day workshops, 100 local facilitators learn from 5 victory garden experts how to grow these high-yield gardens.
Step 2 Through peer-to-peer learning, teach 3,000 trainees. In 3-day workshops in their villages, the 100 facilitators teach 3,000 trainees in groups of 30 people each. The trainees and facilitators deepen their sense of ownership.
Step 3 Cultivate 22,000 victory gardens. The 3,000 trainees and 100 facilitators create victory gardens at their homes, as well as guide at least 6 relatives, neighbors, and friends to start their own gardens. The goalis to get 22,000 households to benefit from victory gardens,which would be equivalent to 100,000 people.
THE HISTORY OF VICTORY AND HOME GARDENS
Victory Garden Campaigns during World War I and II rallied American and British citizens to grow their own food at home. In 1943, 20 million gardens produced 40% of all vegetables grown that year in the U.S., enabling more resources for the war and galvanizing a whole nation behind a common cause. More recently, the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organization has facilitated home garden projects in Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Bhutan, India, Indonesia, Niger, Somalia, Lesotho and Algeria.