She was born in poverty. She grew up in poverty. And at the age 17, that's four years ago, she gave birth to twin children still in her poverty.
She had her babies' welfare at heart, but poverty—coupled with the early demise of the children's father—hindered her from experiencing joys of motherhood.
The twins were now becoming a burden. And, because food was hard to come by, her milk production was too low to satisfy the bellies of the little ones.
That was the life of Alice Mapemba of Kamwendo Village in the area of Traditional Authority (TA) Mpama in Chiradzulu district. Though her aged mum was no better off economically, she had no choice but entrust the twin babies with her.
"I left them with my mum when they were just two months," begins Mapemba, "I could not fend for them."
As she was trying to fend for herself, her mind was still at her twins. But with no tangible income, there was almost nothing she could do.
"I saw my children's health deteriorate each passing day as they were fed ordinary porridge and water; I could see them wasting away due to malnutrition.
"I could not stop fancying running into large amount of money, getting back my children and taking good care of them just as any other responsible parent would do," said Mapemba, wiping away some tears welling up on the corners of her eyes.
The turn around
Though she relieved herself of the children, she never left her community.Two years on, her economic status never improved even an inch. She could not stop but lament over her inability to be economically productive and get back her children. But the village crier's call to a meeting at the village headman's court marked a turning point in her life.
"I will never forget that day. It was at that meeting where officials from Save the Children educated us on how to fight poverty and malnutrition the local way.
"We were introduced to village loan savings and how to prepare nutritious food using our locally grown crops," she said.
Bearing in mind the poor health of her children, Mapemba vested more interest in porridge making.
She learnt that with mgaiwa [maize flour], ground pumpkin leaves, groundnuts and eggs she can make a nutritious porridge. She also learnt that fruit after meal could be an icing on the cake.
She further learnt she could make porridge from orange sweet potatoes, milk from Soya beans to make her children's porridge even more healthful.
With additional entrepreneurial skills of making dough from pumpkin seeds, juices from both tuber and leaves of orange sweet potato and indeed chips from the same potatoes, her financial standing has been improving as she makes some for sale.
This convinced her she could reclaim her children. And so she did.
With expert health tips from the area's mother leader Idah Lodzani, the children— just as the case with many other in this village— are not vulnerable to diseases due to malnourishment.
"If you take a walk across the village you see that almost every household carries health and nutrition messages through writings and drawing on the wall of their houses," Lodzani said.
Improving food security, Livelihood
Mapemba is not alone in singing this success story as locals in Mbeluwa Village in TA Mlumbe's area in Zomba are chorusing the same.
Here is one irrigation scheme where locals diverted water through the gravity system. The diverted water, which is even captured at night and stored in a reservoir, is used to irrigate a total land of eight hectares thereby benefiting a total of 55 farmers of which 47 are women.
"This is contributing to food security in the sense that the rain fed agriculture they were practising was not enough to take them to the next harvest.
"But this scheme enables them cultivate twice a year thereby combating the perennial hunger," says Agriculture Save the Children's Manager for Wellness and Agriculture for Livelihood Advancement (Wala) James Lwanda.
He further says the scheme also supports the growing of cash crops like vegetables, Irish potatoes, strawberry as well as fish rearing which is boosts the locals' livelihood.
Getting members of a community together and adopt new interventions for their own goods is no simpletask. But Doreen Mphande, Save the Children's Health Nutrition Officer says care group model makes this easier.
"We group the households and community members into groups. So, whatever intervention we bring to the community, we go with it through the groups which mobilise each other and at the end of the day, we reach out to a number of people," she says.
Mphande says promoters of such interventions, who are care group members, are trained freely to spread interventions throughout the community on voluntary basis.
She says in addition to the above, other interventions include promotion of fireless cooker and stove which save the environment as they consume little firewood; promotion of kitchen gardens and hygiene toilets.
All these interventions are aimed at eradicating malnutrition and improving on local livelihoods.