Wilfred's Leap of Faith
A Malawian village builds resilience one drop at a time
Story by Sahar Kalifa, USAID and Sarosh Hussain, USAID | Photos by Morgana Wingard for USAID
Wilfred Charles is a 35-year-old farmer and pastor who helped his community grow resilient against drought by building an irrigation system in his village of Mitawa.
When Wilfred was young, there was a famine in the village. There wasn't enough food to go around, so he became underweight.
Now, Wilfred and his wife Magrate Nthawani have four children: Bright, Joyce, Rodgers and Mphatso. Wilfred doesn’t want them to suffer like he did. It’s important for him to make sure he has enough food to feed his family.
In 2010, USAID introduced Wilfred’s community to irrigation farming to water their crops. The community started looking for volunteers to build irrigation canals. At first, more than 200 people volunteered. But when they realized how difficult the work was, all left except for Wilfred and five other men.
They did not give up.
The six volunteers worked tirelessly for three years to build the irrigation canal. Meanwhile, USAID provided food aid to support them.
All the while, people mocked them and thought they were crazy. But they did not give up. Wilfred believed this work would benefit his community and persisted with his task.
Once the canal was built, water flowed through the fields, and the land was protected from soil erosion. Crops were growing. Now, the community can feed itself — even amid droughts.
If the six men did not show up, the whole community would now be facing hunger and our children would be malnourished. Now, we are confident because we have water,” Wilfred said.
Wilfred and the other five volunteers made the best of the training they received from USAID. With that knowledge and hard work, they changed their whole community. Their village has become self-reliant; they are no longer dependent on food aid to survive a drought.
Wilfred and the other five volunteers made the best of the training they received from USAID.
With that knowledge and hard work, they changed their whole community. Their village has become self-reliant; they are no longer dependent on food aid to survive a drought.
About This Story
Mitawa is a group of 35 small villages near the Lingoni River in Malawi. Its residents have suffered from consecutive droughts throughout the years.
In 2010, USAID introduced the community to irrigation farming to regularly supply water to their crops. An extension worker explained how irrigation farming works, and the community started looking for volunteers to build irrigation canals. Wilfred and five other men worked for three years so that their community could regularly supply water to their fields, with the goal of becoming self-reliant.
Six years after USAID introduced the new method to the village, Wilfred’s community is still reaping the benefits of their hard work. People are able to cultivate more, send children to school, build houses and have more economic opportunities.
USAID is helping Malawians to better withstand droughts by giving them the skills and tools they need to prepare and be resilient. By supporting these communities, USAID is supporting them on their development journey to self-reliance.