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Helping to prevent hunger for villagers in Malawi

Jul 2019
Malawi
500 people reached

In 2017 Water for the World initiated a project to provide a drip irrigation system in Chithumba, a remote village in southern Malawi. The project completed at the start of 2019 and is now helping to ensure a community of 500 people has enough food to eat.

Climate change is resulting in more extreme weather in Malawi, with either long periods of drought or heavy rainfalls and devastating floods. These conditions lead to loss of harvests and major food shortages, creating the need for improved methods of farming such as drip irrigation. Modern irrigation systems built with PE pipe systems are extremely water efficient and protect crops from drought. Combined with fertiliser, they allow farmers to raise up to three harvests a year, instead of just one. However, the pumps, tanks and pipes required are too expensive for many communities to buy.

Planning and design started in 2016 and the system is now fully installed and running. It consists of two boreholes along with groundwater pumps, water tanks and irrigation pipes. The pumps are solar powered, with PV panels containing Borealis Quentys™ encapsulant materials, and the PE pipes also use Borealis and Borouge materials.

While the food situation in Malawi remains severe, the drip irrigation system allows the villagers to raise another harvest, despite the approaching dry season, helping to cushion them against food shortages. Another benefit of the system is that in the future the villagers will be able to use groundwater for drinking as well.

In March 2019, Malawi was severely hit by cyclone Idai, which brought strong winds and heavy rain. While the drip irrigation system was undamaged, the flooding caused by the cyclone has left the ground too salty to grow corn, the staple food in the region. In the coming seasons, the villagers will therefore experiment with more saline-resistant crops such as beans, tomatoes and onions. If the system is expanded in the future, it could alleviate the problem by using an additional pump and suitable membranes to  desalinate the groundwater.

This project was the result of a collaboration between many individuals and organisations. Lars Pettersson, a Borealis employees, volunteered as project manager and two members of the congregation – building inspector Pär Andersson and civil engineer Johan Magnusson – managed the project on behalf of the NGO. Borouge Application Marketing Manager Andrew Wedgner provided support and technical advice, alongside Borouge customer Ecoflo Irrigation, which is a leading manufacturer of irrigation systems. The photovoltaic panels were provided and installed by Soltech. Bert Broeders, member of the Borealis New Business Development Solar team followed up the production of the photovoltaic panels using Borealis Quentys BPO8828F encapsulant material. To ensure short and cost-efficient transport distances, South African pipe producer Marley provided the piping. Andrew Pienaar, a Borealis sales engineer in Johannesburg, supported the project by liaising with Marley. Lars Pettersson’s brother, Jan-Olof, also supported the project on a voluntary basis and strongly contributed to its success.