Lucia rebuilds her life after devastating floods of 2014

Lucia Goster
Lucia Goster

Single mother Lucia Goster (54) lost everything in the floods of 2014 which devastated the district of Chikwawa, in one of the poorest areas in southern Malawi.

Livestock and crops were washed away, and the villagers were left to count the cost and rebuild their lives.

Since then Christian Aid, through its partner Eagles Relief and Development Programme, has been involved in a number of schemes to help the communities become more resilient including a solar powered irrigation scheme which cost £93,000 to construct.

A 70m deep borehole was drilled, a 100,000 litre reservoir constructed and canals were created to move the water round the 10 hectares of plots. Around 3,000 households are benefiting from the scheme.

A unique element of the overall project is the construction of a 15m by 30m pond which allows 30 members of the scheme to produce fish which are sold within the community.

Members of the Civil Protection Programme are also involved in the construction of a dyke aimed at protecting the villages from further devastating floods.

Lucia is part of the irrigation scheme and also received two goats in a scheme run by Christian Aid.

She explained: “Out of the two goats within the same year they had multiplied and then I had eight goats within a year. From the eight goats I sold three and kept five. This totally transformed my household and I was able to make £95. I was able to send my children to school and to have daily food for myself.

“I am a single woman. I was used to seeking help from people in the family but with the goats I can make my own money. I also have a small garden and what I get from there you wouldn’t believe. It provides a lot - four bags of maize, four times throughout the year. I get a minimum of 12 bags a year,” said Lucia.

She and her children alternate the work in the fields and at weekends her daughter and two sons make bricks.

She added: “With the introduction of the scheme I don’t lack anything and I am financially independent and capable.”

As part of the work in the village Lucia also has a new cook stove which uses less firewood and produces less smoke, but retains the heat more efficiently.

As less firewood is needed she only needs to undertake one trip a year to get firewood so this has saved her a lot of time.

She is one of the people who were affected by the severe floods in the 2014/2015 growing season in the district.

“The place where I now live was the area to which everyone relocated. We used to live in the area behind where the dyke is,” she explained.

“The flood came during the day. At first when it started to rain we thought it wasn’t that bad but soon the water was three metres high. People lost all their livestock, maize, everything. All we could take with us were our children.

“For us to move from that end of the village to here took about two or three hours because of the water and the mud. I thank God that He spared our lives but we had to go in mud up to the waist. We were fortunate that there were men to help us and pull the women and children out of the mud. No one died, just livestock. There was also a danger from snakes which hid in the tree logs.”

Lucia believes that because of the capacity that has been built through the Christian Aid projects she no longer has to depend on rain fed agriculture because she is part of the irrigation scheme.

She added: “If there is a drought I know I can rely on the scheme. I have livestock which I can sell and still have something for my family.

“Before the scheme I had to do manual labour. It was very far away at the river and there was a risk of crocodile attack. Sometimes I went as far as Mozambique in search of work.”