Originally published on November 10, 2014.
Ms. Lucy Bamusi, of central Malawi, has had to fend for household basic needs for her household of nine, including her mother, her daughters and her younger brothers and sisters. Describing her situation, Ms. Bamusi said, “Ndinali pamavuto kwambiri” ( “I had too many problems to attend to”). When asked how she made ends meet in a myriad of problems, Ms. Bamusi related the following story.
In 2000, food security was a problem because the household could not harvest an adequate supply of maize due to a lack of fertilizer and improved seed. In 2001, the household harvested three 50-kilogram bags of maize, which was depleted by August 2001. Ms. Bamusi remarked: “Tinasowa mtengo wogwira, chakudya chitatha” (“We had no viable alternative means of survival after we depleted our maize stock”).
In search for solutions to her family’s problems, Ms. Bamusi began work with the Dedza District Assembly in January 2002 collecting market fees for the assembly at Chimbiya market. With this money, she could only buy 25 kilograms of maize every month for the family. In addition, she was also supporting her sister’s anemic and chronically sick daughter.
She got a salaried job with the district assembly in 2003; however, her firstborn daughter was selected to start the first year of secondary education, and as a result, she used most of her salary to pay for her daughter’s school fees and other expenses. This meant that the income available to support the family was even further reduced. Ms. Bamusi said, “I had no idea what to do. I just continued with my work and hoped that one day God will hear our prayers.”
Life became a bit easier on March 4, 2004, when Ms. Bamusi was selected as a recipient of one of a cow through the USAID-funded Malawi Dairy Business Development Program implemented by Land O’Lakes International Development. Unfortunately, on April 7, 2004, the cow died due to calving complications. However, her hardworking spirit and excellent animal husbandry skills did not go unnoticed by the leadership of her milk bulking group (MBG). The leadership advocated on Ms. Bamusi’s behalf to receive a second cow from Land O’Lakes, as the first had died of causes beyond her control. Because of the commitment she had demonstrated to proper cow management, she received another pregnant heifer on July 28, 2004. The cow delivered a bull calf on October 5, 2004. Ms. Bamusi resigned from her job at the district assembly immediately.
Asked why, she said, “Ndimafuna kuti ndidzisamalira bwino ng’ombe yanga” (“I wanted to take good care of my cow”).
The Cow Does the Trick
Luci Bamusi (third from right in back row) and her family wear clothes purchased with income from her cow's milk.
Ms. Bamusi’s cow gives an average of 16 liters per day. She delivers an average of 14 liters per day to the MBG.
Ms. Bamusi remarked, “I am now relieved. I get enough money every month from milk sales to support the family and my daughter who is in Form 3 at secondary school without any problems.” Ms. Bamusi recounted how owning the cow has indeed made a huge difference for her and her entire family. She enjoys tremendously improved household food security and nutrition. For example, the members of her household now eat a balanced diet because she can afford to buy meat, fish, eggs, cooking oil and vegetables, in addition to daily consumption of 1.5 liters of her cow’s milk. As a result, the child who was malnourished and anemic is now healthy and strong. If a family member does become ill, she can bear the cost of health care at a private clinic.
Lucy supports the education of family members by purchasing uniforms and writing materials for her second daughter, her sisters and her brothers. She can easily afford the school fees for her secondary school daughter. She financially assists her mother and brother. After meeting all her familial financial responsibilities, she still has enough funds remaining to contribute to a savings account at a bank.
One cow can make an enormous difference for a whole family.