Working Animal Project in MalawiFarming is all about timing: When to plant, when to water, when to harvest, when to sell; even when to wake up every morning to ensure that the work that needs doing gets done. Show up too early or too late, and crops suffer. The promise of a successful season withers with each moment wasted.

It’s crucial that farmers be as efficient as they are proficient in their work. If a task takes longer than expected, it means every other task that follows must be completed more quickly to make up for lost time. It’s a balance that, when tipped, can affect the bottom line, as well as the waistline for farmers whose families rely on harvests that produce enough food to provide daily meals, as well as seasonal income.

Of course, hard work is not necessarily a predictor of success, especially when the difficulty involved is due to inefficiency, rather than a lack of commitment or skill. So when farmers from two Outreach-affiliated communities in Malawi met to address these issues, no one broached the topic of working harder. It was time to work smarter.

Promises, Promises

Along with other members of their community, the farmers embarked on a Working Animal Project to acquire two pairs of cattle, with one pair for each community, as well as the materials to construct enclosures to house them, plowing and hauling equipment, and resources to provide regular veterinary care.

In the spirit of efficiency, here are some of the ways farmers and their families in both communities will benefit from the addition of cows:

  • Planting a season’s-worth of seeds on an average-sized farm (2-3 acres) can now be completed in a day — two days, at most — rather than three months.
  • A 300% increase in seasonal crop yields — by hand, farmers harvests topped out around five 20kg bags. Their animal-assisted seasonal yield averages 20 20kg bags.
  • Once community partners have finished their work, renting animals and plowing equipment to other farmers in the area provide a secondary revenue stream that supports a community-managed loan project, which covers expenses related to veterinarian visits and vaccines, upkeep costs for the cart, plow, and animal enclosures, as well as providing funding for future community-driven development projects.

Some benefits will be immediate and immense: The upcoming harvest will yield far more crops than previous years, in terms of quality and variety. Instead of having to choose between dedicating harvests to feeding their families or to earning an income, farmers can do both.

High-Yield Returns

At every level, the Working Animal Project is about new growth: New types of crops to eat and sell; new streams of revenue to provide in the short-term and save for the future, and a new development in local agricultural practices that have stood largely unchanged for generations. Beyond greener fields and material gains, community partners have new evidence of the transformative, sustainable results of commitment and collaboration.

“Even though this project has been difficult and taken longer to implement than we expected, we keep working,” says Chrissy, a community partner and mother. “We are doing this for our children.”

Partners in both communities have every intention of continuing to nurture momentum as they progress along a path to financial and nutritional stability. Together, they’re currently working toward construction of a new solar-powered water tank and borehole well to provide greater access to clean water, and have begun work toward establishing a local nursery school.

After investing the time and energy to ensure a positive, promising outcome to the Working Animal Project, the farmers, along with the rest of their communities, are currently preparing for their upcoming harvest. Besides more bountiful fields and more reliable yields, community partners have a fresh example of the benefits of vision, planning, and teamwork from which to draw for their next projects.

Long-Term Investment

It will take some time for the promise of the Working Animal Project to truly take root. Each new season will bring other challenges and demand further organized, authentic action. Each new action will demand time and energy for a positive outcome. Each new outcome will serve as a foundational element to expedite the resolution of the next challenge. Cycles continue, patterns emerge, understanding grows, and empowerment blossoms. Just as the distant sun over the horizon coaxes crops from the earth, the examples set and traditions established by the current generation of farmers enriches the environment for distant harvests.

“Even though this project has been difficult and taken longer to implement than we expected, we keep working,” says Chrissy, a community partner and mother. “We are doing this for our children.”

Time well spent.

How to Help

You can ensure success ’til the cows come home for our partners around the world by becoming a monthly Outreach donor 100% of your gift directly supports our Outreach-affiliated communities as they work together to address whatever challenges they face. Well-spent, indeed!