National Geographic : 2009 Jun
many of the same results as the Millennium Villages project, at a fraction of the cost. ere are no hybrid corn seeds, free fertilizers, or new roads here in the village of Ekwendeni. Instead the Soils, Food and Healthy Communities (SFHC) project distributes legume seeds, reci- pes, and technical advice for growing nutritious crops like peanuts, pigeon peas, and soybeans, which enrich the soil by xing nitrogen while also enriching children s diets. The program began in 2000 at Ekwendeni Hospital, where the sta was seeing high rates of malnutrition. Research suggested the culprit was the corn monoculture that had le small farmers with poor yields due to depleted soils and the high price of fertilizer. e project s old pickup needs a push to get it going, but soon Boyd Zimba, the project s assistant coordinator, and Zacharia Nkhonya, its food-security supervisor, are rattling down the road, talking about what they see as the down- side of the Malawi Miracle. "First, the fertilizer subsidy cannot last long," says Nkhonya, a com- pact man with a quick smile. "Second, it doesn t go to everyone. And third, it only comes once a year, while legumes are long-term---soils get improved every year, unlike with fertilizers." At the small village of Encongolweni, a group of two dozen SFHC farmers greet us with a song about the dishes they make from soybeans and pigeon peas. We sit in their meetinghouse as if at an old-time tent revival, as they testify about how planting legumes has changed their lives. Ackim Mhone s story is typical. By incorporat- ing legumes into his rotation, he s doubled his corn yield on his small plot of land while cut- ting his fertilizer use in half. " at was enough to change the life of my family," Mhone says, and to enable him to improve his house and buy livestock. Later, Alice Sumphi, a 67-year- old farmer with a mischievous smile, dances in her plot of young knee-high tomatoes, proud- ly pointing out that they bested those of the younger men. Canadian researchers found that One of the world's billion people who survive on less than a dollar a day, Mahabbat Ali Sheikh buys rice for his family at the Shaghata bazaar, in northern Bangladesh. The food crisis has pushed 75 million more into poverty, a place where food is never cheap.