“Water is their lifeline”: Scott Rotary continues fundraising for irrigation project in Africa

Holly Viers • Jan 19, 2020 at 12:00 PM

GATE CITY — From the moment Roger and Earline Lane first visited Malawi, Africa, their lives haven’t been the same.

Struck by the poverty and hunger in the country, particularly in the Kaziwo community, the Lanes felt they had to do something to help. That led to a partnership with the Rotary Club of Scott County, which agreed to raise money for an irrigation project in Kaziwo.

The project will provide a sustainable source of water for the villagers, something they do not currently have.

“We take water for granted, and over there, that’s their lifeline,” Roger said. “If they’ve got water, they’ll live.”

About the region

Landlocked Malawi ranks among the world’s least developed countries. It is heavily dependent on rain-fed agriculture but is prone to extreme climate conditions, ranging from droughts to floods. These conditions make it one of the countries most susceptible to famine, according to the Global Food Security Index.

The Kaziwo community is composed of four villages — Mkombe, Chakhoma, Mungomba and Kasananga — and is located in western Malawi. Although the soil is good for growing a variety of crops, the community does not have a reliable water source during droughts. When crops fail, villagers are forced to sell land to purchase food to survive, which leads to less crop productivity in future years due to less arable land.

During a drought, women and children, who have to skip school, water crops by hand to help increase yields, while the men seek scarce employment in hopes of earning enough money to sustain their families until the next harvest. Despite these efforts, lives have been lost in poor harvest seasons due to famine.

Mission work

The Lanes have visited Malawi every year since their first visit on a church mission trip four years ago. Their first few visits were strictly evangelistic, but in 2018, the couple began partnering with Benita Africa, a charitable organization that feeds orphans and the elderly in the villages.

“That’s when we met the people at the Kaziwo community,” Earline said. “It’s not that that’s the only place that can benefit from help, but that was where we were, and the people touched us with their desperation. You see them working in the fields; they work really, really hard, and there are just not too many opportunities.”

Last year, the Lanes had the idea to pursue an irrigation project for the community through the Rotary Club of Scott County, of which they are both members. This is the biggest international project the club has ever done, Earline said.

Project benefits

If a reliable water source is provided through irrigation, which is the aim of the project, farmers can extend the growing season from one to two or three times per year, depending on the crop, instead of depending on one season of rain.

The harvests will provide a source of income for other needs, such as children’s education and seeds and fertilizer. Farmers can also focus on developing better farming methods, which will strengthen the overall position of the villages.

“This will also be a source of drinking water, as well as an irrigation system,” Earline said. “It’ll be over 25 acres of land. … With this system, 50 families can grow a garden, enough to supply them until the next growing season, and they can rotate during three growing seasons.”

Raising funds

The projected cost for the project is $70,000. The club is in the process of applying for a matching grant through Rotary International, which would cover about half the cost.

Club members’ contributions, along with donations received from churches, individuals and other Rotary Clubs, total about $20,000 so far, leaving about $17,000-20,000 more to raise, Earline said. Once the funds are raised, a Rotary Club in Malawi will oversee the funds and the construction of the project.

“We’re a small club, and $70,000 is a lot of money, but they (club members) have been 100% supportive and behind it,” Earline said. “So we’re all excited about starting it and getting the grant submitted. We’re committed to the project to see it through.”

How to help

Tax-deductible donations can be mailed to Rotary Club of Scott County Virginia, Attn: Kaziwo Irrigation Project, P.O. Box 728, Gate City, VA 24251 or made via a PayPal link, which can be accessed on the “Rotary Club of Scott County Virginia” Facebook page.

“Giving just a little can make such a tremendous difference,” Earline said. “If anyone is interested, there’s no amount too small, because it’s amazing what can happen with just a little bit.”

For fundraising updates, visit the club’s Facebook page. For more information, call (423) 742-1789 or email ScottCountyRotary@gmail.com.