The agriculture program of the Malawi Project sprang to life during the catastrophic famine of 2001-03. Food shortages were the worst in 50 years, with people dying in villages, trading centers, along roads and in the fields.
When the degree of famine was uncovered supporters quickly contributed a million dollars in food aid through the Project. As it slowly began to subside there was a great deal of sensitivity not to continue support that would foster a dependency, a welfare state as it were. Ways were put in place to increase food production. Another subtle shift was when a 40-foot trailer of garden hoes arrived, followed by a trailer of vegetable seeds. These signaled they were capable of standing on their own feet. These were followed by drip systems, 10,000 units in all over the next year. A number of farmers planted two crops the following year instead of one. Slowly village life returned to normal.
In 2004 support was solicited for the Madalitso Food Processing Plant, a major facility in central Malawi, one of the few places that was capable of processing and distributing locally grown food. This was followed by the Mtalamanja Agricultural Village in 2006-08, designed to house 30 – 50 farm families for a year of intensive training in agriculture, fish farming, various methods of agriculture, conservation and soil maintenance.
In 2007 the Project assisted in the formation and focus of Agricultural Aid International, a U.S. based 501(c) 3 organization. In a short time Tom Rich, its founder, delivered the first of a new line of versatile, simple, unique farm tractors designed for the unusual conditions of developing nations. Five more units called V-Tractors (V is for village), followed in subsequent years. By 2013 Tom was ready to roll out a new walk behind unit that fit the criteria of its larger cousin. Named the VT2, this smaller unit promises to play its roll in the changeover from dependency to that of independence.