The Christian Aid Christmas Appeal 2022 – help people in Malawi put food on the table this Christmas

The climate crisis has increased the risk of hunger during Malawi’s annual lean season but mother-of-five Fyness Tembo is able to weather the storm, thanks to a Christian Aid project.

As the nights draw in, we start to be filled with the hope of Christmas. Before long, we’ll see bright lights twinkling on trees. We’ll wrap up warm and sing our favourite carols. And we’ll enjoy that special, once-a-year meal with our loved ones.

The joy of Christmas dinner is something that families in Malawi love too, as Fyness Tembo, a caring mum of five, explains: “We celebrate Christmas by eating chicken and rice. After eating rice, I feel very happy and satisfied. I wish I could eat rice every day.”

Sadly, many families in Malawi will struggle even to put their staple food of maize porridge on the table. That’s because December falls during one of the toughest times of the year – the country’s ‘hunger season’ which is getting worse due to the climate crisis. Extreme weather means that the old year’s meagre harvest runs out several weeks before the new harvest is ready. Hotter temperatures and drought, as well as destructive downpours and floods are playing havoc with the growing seasons, causing poor crop yields and food shortages.

Until recently, Fyness (50) would struggle to find enough food for herself and her family and there have been times when she was so desperate that she had to beg for food. But Christian Aid’s local partner provided Fyness with seeds, tools and training and today she is growing soya, groundnuts, maize and beans – enough to eat and surplus to sell for a cash income.

The Christian Aid Christmas Appeal 2022 - help people in Malawi put food on the table

Fyness also received fruit tree saplings and soon she will have her own fruit. She said: “Together there are seven fruit trees. I know in the future I will have fruits. My children and I will no longer struggle to look for wild fruits in the forest. We will get them at home.”

In rural Malawi, it falls to women and girls to collect firewood for cooking and heating water. Fyness used to walk for 6 kms to collect firewood which lasted for only two days before she needed to make the trip again. Christian Aid’s partner has provided Fyness with a stove which consumes only a quarter of the firewood of an open fire, cutting her workload and reducing the number of trees that need to be felled. Fyness and the others in her community are now making and selling cook stoves to generate additional income. The new cook stoves are giving hours of time back to mums for better tasks than finding firewood.

In the past, her children’s school attendance was erratic because there was no money for uniforms or school fees. Fyness told us: “Most of the time they skipped school or started school late. I had no idea where I could find the money to help them.” Since receiving help from Christian Aid’s local partner, Fyness’ children are in school and receiving an education.

Although climate change has exacerbated hunger and hardship, Fyness is able to weather life’s storms, thanks in part to the village savings and loan scheme set up by our local partner. Fyness saves some of the money she makes by selling her farm produce and cook stoves, and uses her income to repay small, low-interest loans. She says: “With the money I saved in the village bank, I have been able to start buying iron sheets to put a new roof on my house and I have sent my children to school.”

The struggle with extreme poverty is not the first challenge that Fyness has overcome in her life. When she was a child, a dangerous eye infection called trachoma threatened to leave her blind but she is thankful to the doctors who treated the infection and saved her eyesight. Today, she enjoys good health, working with her husband on their farm and bringing up their children.

This Christmas, Fyness is grateful that she has enough nutritious food to feed her family, a fuel-efficient stove to ease the task of collecting firewood, and soon she will have the security of a new roof on her home. Most of all, she is happy that her children are in school, and receiving the education they deserve.

This transformation has been made possible because of the love our supporters and sponsoring churches show for their global neighbours.

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