Seed4Life plants more hope in Malawi

Dave Alsop from Seed4Life with some of the villagers the project is helping.

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Seil’s Seed4Life charity is making big changes to lives in the world’s fourth poorest country by growing hope and faith in Malawi’s future.

Thanks to a Scottish Government grant, the SCIO will be sending more than £20,000 out to the Bemvu area this year.

The government grant makes up £13,350 of it which means the rest has to come out of Seed4Life’s own fundraising pot.

Dave Alsop from Seed4Life with one of the village leaders in Bemvu.

The project that runs a farming programme giving money to be converted into a harvest also supports a school feeding project, helps people affected by HIV and directly funds the secondary education of 25 young people.

The charity’s  Dave Alsop, who started the project, has just returned from a 10-day mission to see first-hand its work and the difference it is making in scattered villages around the Ntcheu province. He travelled by dirt roads through the bush, over a similar distance from Seil to Kilmelford, to meet with the villages’ headmen and chiefs as well as their  management committees.

Housing there is very poor, away from the main road there is no electricity, water comes from pumps and those who have a river running through their village use it to wash in and clean their clothes, polluting the water. At night, everything is lit by paraffin lamps.

‘It was an experience. Nothing quite prepares you for moving from a society here to the society they exist in there. There’s absolutely no comparison between what we have here and what they have there, geographically or culturally.

‘Even though I’ve been dealing remotely with these people for a couple of years, it was an eye-opener to see it first-hand,’ said Mr Alsop, who is giving a talk at Kilbrandon Church on tonight (Thursday September 26) at 7.45pm to give an update on the Bemvu project and show a video.

‘What struck me is that the people are so happy and friendly. Wherever you go they have a smile on their face, they are very respectful of each other and strangers. You don’t just start a conversation, they greet you and ask you how you are first – something I found quite refreshing in this day and age,’ he added.

‘The project is making huge inroads into people’s living standards but one of their biggest fears is that we stop now. Eventually the end product is that it becomes a self-sustaining project but I had to reassure them it’s not the case we will be stopping before we reach that stage. That’s definitely not on the cards,’ said Mr Alsop.

‘The farming programme is our core scheme. This yer we will support 120 farmers up from 84 in the last growing season.The money we give is converted into a harvest and part of that is used for our school feeding project benefiting 1,400 children.

‘The balance goes towards buying seeds and fertiliser for the next year and anything left goes to the farmers for the work they have put in to give them better standards of living, including being able to send their children for a secondary education they have to pay for.

‘Directly, we support 25 young people through their secondary education which is a continual commitment. It’s a gift to them. I interviewed several of them when I was out there and they are so grateful.

‘They know damn fine they would have just joined the cycle otherwise and have had to leave school at eight or nine and gone back home to work in the fields and end up as subsistence farmers for the rest of their lives. These young people I spoke with now have ambitions to join professions which means they have HOPE, in capital letters.

‘Having seen the difference we are making, it’s very humbling. We need people’s continued support and as ever we are so thankful for it.’

Volunteers will be bag-packing for donations at Tesco in Oban on November 16. To find out more now go to seedforlife.org.uk.