Mzuzu, Malawi … Success is sometimes measured in inches, not miles, days, not years. Such realities can often be disheartening when development workers seek to promote improvements. One can easily understand why aid groups sometimes just give out commodities rather than devote time to coordinating with local groups. Development work inherently involves struggling against failures, overcoming hard-to-change habits, and persevering against the stumbles that are bound to occur. In some ways it is easier to neglect new ideas or not offer trainings, to just step back and let the old ways prevail. However, if energy and devotion are applied in equal measure, greater (more sustainable) successes often spring up out of the ground [figuratively and literally]. In the end, such work can often be more rewarding via the smiles of farm communities tasting new levels of success.
This is the way it has been for the past three seasons in one part of northern Malawi. As is common with human communities around the world, fear of failure and insecurity with testing something new, can create stagnation. In this instance, it means that a VT2 Walk Behind Tractor and rows of drip irrigation systems were left hidden and inactive. For Wilson Tembo it had been a challenge. Even though he had seen these tools successfully utilized in other villages, he had to face the frustration of knowing it would work, but not being able to prove it. Yet as mentioned before, perseverance can bring about great success. This past year, during one of his trips to the north, Mr. Tembo was able to help a group of local churches form numerous agricultural co-ops. Once the co-ops were in place, church members put the drip irrigation systems and the Walk Behind tractor to the test. In the heat of Malawian spring, new sounds ushered in a burst of life. Tractor hums crisscrossed the land while drips of moisture compelled plants to inch up out of the ground.
Finally, success after three years of patient waiting. Three years of encouragement. Three years of walking alongside Malawi farmers who had never walked this path before. Finally, Mr. Tembo, the American team, and Malawan community members were able to see crop growth in a region where such success has been few and far between over the past two seasons.