Trucking a New Harvest to Malawi

The views here in Malawi are stunning. Rugged, brown mountains frame verdant valleys with shades of orange and green, like something out of a Cezanne painting. The terrain looks a lot like New Mexico in the United States.

In this southern African nation — slightly smaller than the state of Pennsylvania — most of the population live in rural areas, but the farmers are mostly subsistence farmers. They grow just enough to feed their own families, or not.

Watch Kate Snow's report tonight on "World News with Charles Gibson."

For years farmers here have struggled to grow enough of a crop to survive. In fact, despite the fact that 85 percent of Malawians live or work on farmland, the country still has to import food.

Farmers here only grow 2 percent of the wheat consumed by the population, for example. The situation is so bad that about one-third of the population is undernourished. One hundred thousand children are severely malnourished.

Isaac Chiwe-Chagalou knows all about it. He's been farming for 25 years in the hills outside the small village of Neno.

His five children have often gone hungry. But not anymore.

This year, workers from the Clinton Foundation, former President Clinton's group, helped Chiwe-Chagalou and about 1,200 other local wheat farmers form a farm cooperative. With the power of numbers and the power of the Clinton name, they were able to negotiate small loans to purchase fertilizer and wheat seed as a group.

Harvest Celebration

Buying fertilizer may not sound like that big a deal, but in this part of the world it makes all the difference. For the first time in years, the farmers have a good crop to harvest in September. And the Clinton Foundation helped them find a miller in another town to process the wheat into flour. They now have a guaranteed market for their product.

"For years, we had no stable income," Chiwe-Chagalou said. "Our lives have greatly improved."

That is the message he gave Clinton when the former U.S. president landed here for a brief visit. Chiwe-Chagalou told Clinton how grateful they are, but he also asked for more. What they need most now is a better road.

There is but one road leading from the distribution point for the fertilizer and seed up into the hills where their farms are. It is deeply rutted, and it washes out in the rain.

This spring, when their cherished fertilizer first arrived, it took the farmers nearly a week to drive the shipment into the mountains.

"The farmers had to come in to literally tie a rope to the trucks, and farmers were pulling the trucks," said Austin Ngwira of the Clinton Foundation.

Clinton said he'll do his best to help the farmers with a new road and new vehicles. He too is impatient for more progress.

"If you ever get satisfied, that means it's OK with you that some kids die," Clinton said in an interview with ABC News. "It's OK with you that some people live in poverty who could have a decent life."