Farmers Enife and Khadijah walk across a field destroyed by Cyclone Ana

How climate change is impacting smallholders in Malawi

This Earth Day - a day dedicated to raising awareness of the challenges our Earth faces and galvanizing action to protect it - we’re highlighting how smallholder farming communities are being affected by climate change.
Climate resilience

In January 2022, Malawian smallholder farmers Enife and Khadijah (both pictured above) had their fields destroyed by Cyclone Ana. Then last month, just as they was recovering, another cyclone - Cyclone Freddy - tore through their community in Mulanje. Once again crops have been damaged and land destroyed by extreme winds, flooding and landslides. And Enife and Khadijah aren't alone - nearly a quarter of the 95,000 smallholder farmers we serve in Malawi have experienced crop damage as a result of Cyclone Freddy which is the longest and most energetic cyclone ever recorded.

Crops damaged by Cyclone Freddy in Malawi
Crops damaged by Cyclone Freddy

Enife and Khadijah's stories

Enife Matemba used to farm on two fields, but Cyclone Ana completely destroyed one of them. Now she and her 7 children rely on just half an acre of land for both income and food. When we spoke to Enife in 2022, she was hopeful that the next season would be different, but Cyclone Freddy has dashed those hopes.

Enife Matemba stands in her destroyed field in Mulanje, Malawi
The cyclone has brought challenges on my family. I rely of farming for survival so because I did not harvest, me and my children we are suffering.

Enife Matemba

One Acre Fund client in Mulanje, Malawi

It's a similar story for Khadijah Kendrick who had just ¾ of an acre of land which she and her daughter relied on for food and income. That piece of land was right in the path of Cyclone Ana when it struck Mulanje in January 2022 and is now buried under a deep layer of sand and scattered boulders thanks to a landslide caused by the excessive rainfall. She is now forced to rent land to be able to continue to provide for her family. Renting land comes with a considerable cost and the family's income has dropped. Now, just over a year later Cyclone Freddy has hit the area. We're still assessing the full-extent of the damage to farmer's crops and land in the Mulanje district, but the initial reports are not promising.

A Malawian farmer sits in her field which is now covered in sand thanks to Cyclone Ana
At first, we thought that it was just normal rains, then when daylight came, we decided to go to the fields but we were met with flooded rivers, our crops and the fields were all washed away. We waited for the water to subsidize and went back to check on the farms, there was nothing…everything was washed away.

Khadijah Kendrick

One Acre Fund client in Mulanje, Malawi

Climate crises are increasing

Cyclones like Freddy are getting stronger, longer and more frequent as a result of climate change: warmer temperatures and warmer seas are both providing extra fuel for the development of cyclones. Cyclone Freddy lasted over a month, making landfall in Southern Malawi twice before finally dissipating but not before it had dumped torrential rains - almost 26 inches fell in just two days in some areas. It hit right as farmers were preparing to harvest, and as Malawi really only has a single farming season, the timing could not have been worse. The fear is that record-breaking cyclones like this will become a yearly occurrence.  

That's why one of our priorities at One Acre Fund is to help smallholders build greater climate resilience. Not only is this a critical operational necessity for us, it’s also an issue of climate justice – farmers like Enife and Khadijah are least responsible for climate change, yet are among the most acutely affected by it. In addition to short-term relief when disasters like Cyclone Freddy strike, we will continue providing long-term support to farm families across Malawi - and all countries we work in - to help them build their climate resilience. Read more about our climate-resilience work here. 

This Earth Day will you help Malawian farmers like Enife and Khadijah to recover from Cyclone Freddy and build their climate resilience by donating now? Your donation will go directly to affected farmers. 

What your donation will achieve

Your donation will help us to continue providing swift support to our affected Malawian clients, staff, and their communities through the following activities:

  • Carrying out measurement and evaluation to understand the extent of damage to clients' farms and livelihoods.
  • Using assessments to inform an effective response strategy - potentially including: 
    • Mass distribution of drying tarps, a simple intervention that can prevent rotting of flooded harvests.
    • A second distribution of inputs later this year, equipping farmers to replant crops such as beans and maize to support food security.  
  • Supporting to our staff and their families in affected areas, helping to ensure they are safe and connecting them to community resources. 
  • Coordinating with peer organizations to restore damaged infrastructure (e.g. bridges), to enable continued flow of inputs and supplies to farmers.

Donate now



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