Malawi is a small landlocked country in sub-Saharan Africa, bordering Zambia, Tanzania and Mozambique, with an estimated population of 14 million. The country is defined as low-income, where over 40 percent of the population live on less than US $1 a day and where landholdings are generally small, particularly in the densely populated south, leading to the over-use of marginally productive agricultural land, causing soil erosion and nutrient depletion. More than 40 percent of rural households cultivate less than half a hectare, mainly devoted to maize production.
Malawi faces a host of food-related challenges, which include chronic food insecurity among poor and vulnerable households, some of them refugees; recurring natural disasters such as drought and floods; a high cost of living; the prevalence of chronic malnutrition and widespread micronutrient deficiencies; high rates of educational dropping out, absenteeism among primary school children from food-insecure households; and low income for smallholder farmers, due to poor agricultural market structures and policies.
William Jackson Food Group (WJFG) has launched an initiative to help provide food security to the farming community here. WJFG, the owners of leading brands such as Abel & Cole, Aunt Bessie’s, Jackson’s Bakery and MyFresh, has committed £225,000 to the five-year project, with ambitions to help a community of up to 1,000 farmers become self-sufficient by equipping them with the knowledge, skills and equipment needed to create a sustainable livelihood through organic farming. Sustainability is at the heart of WJFG, so to be able to apply its expertise to the pursuit of food security in Malawi is a powerful use of the company’s knowledge and skills. It has released the first set of funds, which will be used to buy seeds and livestock, as well as initiate training programs.
The planning process has been in place for more than a year. There is a dedicated WJFG project manager to ensure tangible, long-lasting results for the Ntcheun village. Working alongside The Cooperative College and Malawi Organic Growers Association, there is confidence that this project will deliver substantial benefits for the people. The aim is to enable farmers to become self-sufficient in producing their own food within the next 12 months. Additionally, a longer-term opportunity will be to identify a market for surplus crops, possibly even via one or more of the WJFG food businesses.
Another driver behind this program is to further the ongoing personal development of WJFG employees, building on the company’s existing volunteering programs. This will provide colleagues from all the subsidiary businesses with the opportunity to play their own part by visiting Malawi and getting involved in a range of support activities, from planting and harvesting crops to building irrigation systems. This WJFG corporate social responsibility initiative is about so much more than simply being a responsible business. This project shows the positive humanitarian effects that can be achieved to help those less fortunate and empower them with the means to improve their lives.
Photo Credit: Ethical Performance
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