Charity harvests hope for home support

Seed For Life is feeding 1.200 schoolchildren in Bemvu.

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A Seil-based charity helping farmers and feed children in Malawi needs help to keep harvesting successful.

The current pandemic has stopped Seed For Life’s usual fundraising activities, prompting the charity to make a ‘Big Ask’ for much-needed support.

Now in its fourth growing year, the project is on target to be self-sufficient within the next few years, but coronavirus could get in its way unless they can keep reaping funds.

Grant aid is still coming from the Scottish Government but the generosity of well-wishers is vital to help keep all the tiers of the project up and running. The project in Bemvu has also become an independent company, including representatives from across the community having a say on how it is managed.

Charity founder David Alsop says it is becoming evident at this time that it will have to either cut back on what was planned or appeal to the public for more donations.

‘We realise that this is a big ask in this current climate. Malawi, of course, is living through the Covid-19 crisis as well,’ said Mr David Alsop, who added: ‘Their main fear is we will pack up our bags and go. There’s no doubt that what we are doing is life-changing for these people because they are seeing more food security.

‘This year has been a good growing year. They are getting top quality seed and fertiliser. They are seeing their incomes increase. The community is beginning to benefit and the school feeding project has been a huge success, although Covid closed the schools in April.’

The charity has also employed six dinner ladies to help feed the children which means six other families are now getting an income they were not receiving in the past.

Dinner ladies at Bemvu although Covid has currently shut all schools.
Dinner ladies at Bemvu although Covid has currently shut all schools.
Some of the harvested maize in Bemvu.

Mr Alsop said: ‘This is all part of the project’s original idea to give people a better chance to stand on their own feet and they have pride in doing that. They don’t want to spend the rest of their lives with their hands held out.’

With 120 farmers signed up to the project, growing crops, there are hopes to recruit another 30 before that part of the work becomes self-sufficient in spring 2022. This year’s  harvest yielded 181 tonnes of maize. Some of the crops are used to feed 1,200 schoolchildren and some is stored to sell for the best price to plough into funds that will support the community as it takes its future into its own hands.

Seed For Life also runs a scholarship programme to help youngsters through their four years of secondary education – in Malawi it has to be paid for privately. Last September it helped 25 students, this September it hopes to support 30 of them.

And the charity has a Fertiliser Fund that gifts seed and fertiliser to the elderly, widowed or those living with disabilities. Last October it put £1,200 into that pot thanks to people’s generous donations.

Seed for Life has also been branching out into growing trees to provide fruit or for firewood, a banana tree nursery has also been set up.

Trustee Maggie Brooks is hoping people nearer home around Oban and Seil will help keep up the charity’s good work by taking up the challenge to fundraise whether its sponsored events of their own by making donations.

‘Every penny goes directly to the work we do, it all adds up and will make such a difference to so many people,’ she said.

To find out how you can help by online shopping, visit seedforlife.org.uk

The charity’s account for bank donations is SEEDforLIFE.FEEDforLIFE.SCIO
Sort code: 83:26:04
Account no: 00259439