In January, the longed-for annual rains turned torrential and severe flooding devastated vast areas in the lower lands, collapsing houses, destroying crops and killing livestock. Hundreds of hectares were under water, and many of the most vulnerable lost all the maize they’d planted for this year, so hunger started early. Desperate pleas for food are still unrelenting.
Checking houses in the community ruined by the floods, we’ve met many who have little food in store, and no income to buy more.
However OHP (Aid Africa/Open Hand Projects) was able to help many of the flood victims. A special appeal allowed us to send over extra resources so we provided water treatments, maize, skin and laundry soap to hundreds of distressed people, in addition to our Food Programme - the annual maize distribution (with soap and soya textured food) issued during the hunger period.
Cassava Pass-on Programme.
Destroyed houses were another serious consequence of the flooding. So many homes were reduced to ugly piles of mud, which the frail were unable to rebuild. We assessed and built six houses for the vulnerable, one for a blind man’s family, and the others for elderly folk caring for orphans.
We were delighted to be able to hand Selina and others, the keys to a simple, safe and robust new home which should last several decades.
Left: Selina in what was left of her house after the floods.
And several months later receiving the keys to her new home!
Summer report 2013 including trip to Malawi April-June
50 babies were on the books but we moved 16 of the older ones off the programme as their health and weight had significantly improved, and new tiny orphaned infants had more urgent need. In just one 10-day period we had 2 tiny babies brought to us. Both lost their mothers within days of their birth, and both have no way of feeding apart from a mixture of flour and water, if our milk were not available. Happily, it is, and these two tiny girls stand a chance of survival now - you never know, one might become a future President of Malawi!
Interestingly, we’ve had referrals from several Govt. Health Centres and a Maternity Unit, so others are also recognising the milk’s value further afield.
While visiting our goats’ milk distribution to vulnerable babies in Bwanali Village, our Field Officer gave a cookery demo teaching nutrition, and we were invited to local homes to assess the food situation. It was a sobering experience.
Below: Teaching ladies at Bwanali how to make Likuni Phala, a maize-based porridge, enriched with soya, dried fish, red beans & groundnut flour - obviously popular with the youngsters just moving off our milk programme.
Right: Edina, another frail elderly widow, looking after two orphans, was delighted with her new house!
Vanessa - just one of the orphans, with little hope of
Agri-training in the bush - FGW DVD’s shown on a laptop perched on a chair & and practical demonstration!.
We decided to focus on quality rather than quantity so reduced our close contact to 5 gardens, with an extra 3 in the wings, clustering villages for better use of time and resources.
Each group is enthusiastic and hard working, giving all produce grown to the most vulnerable in their village.
Our friends, Les & Kathie, are supervising OHP’ s FGW programme (Farming God’s Way), building relationships and encouraging both staff and community volunteers in best agricultural practice.
Each garden received 40 cassava cuttings (enough for about 150 plants), red beans and vegetable seeds. Consistent input by our agri team supports these groups by providing advice, training, monitoring, mentoring and encouragement by example!
Margaret, with 4 young children, just had enough for one meal, and a little raw bran (which we feed to our goats) to stew up into a gruel for the next day. Her husband was somewhere in Mozambique trying to find piece-work to support his family. They’d worked hard planting maize in their field, but the entire crop had been lost to the floods.We gave food, developed plans to put in a pass-on chicken project to benefit the village, and encouraged the planting of backyard gardens.
Hard to believe such extreme poverty is happening right now, within our reach .....
Addressing the challenge of hunger is an ongoing process. One of the ways we’re combating it is with our new Cassava Pass-On Programme.
We’ve bought in hundreds of cassava cuttings - enough for about 5000 plants, and have distributed them freely around the area. Cassava is a root crop developing tubers which can be dried and ground into flour, eaten as a cooked vegetable or raw as a snack. Its leaves are good for veg, and after harvest, its stems are cut into pieces and replanted as ongoing seed multiplication.
The “pass-on” part is the requirement to give away the same number of cuttings originally received, to others at harvest. The rest are divided and re-planted, so the food security element grows on each harvest. We’ve urgently accelerated this plan to plant early enough to provide food from Christmas onwards, when it’s scarce and the vulnerable are most at risk, However, before then, to keep the crop going, we’ve battles to win against lack of water for irrigation and termite attack.
Another weapon against hunger is our Food Programme.We bought in 15 tonnes of maize in April 2013, most of which will be stored till the hunger period, later in the year. At Christmas, we’ll begin issuing to assessed, ultra-vulnerable families within our target groups:- orphans, the elderly, those living with disability and the AIDS-affected. As the staple diet, this will provide the basis for about 60,000 adult meals, spread over the 3-month period.
Some of the 15,000kgs of maize bought in for the frail & vulnerable during the hunger period later in the year.
None of the families visited had food for more than a week, with no way of getting more.
Our livestock programmes are developing - most of our dairy goats have been mated, so hope to hear the patter of tiny hooves in October. We need to expand our herd and increase milk yield as so many orphaned, AIDS-affected, and babies of severely malnourished mothers, rely on it. But it’s been challenging. For some reason our girls weren’ t coming into season, and Sargeant - our saanen stud - had a couple of serious bouts of sickness which took him out of service. As their pregnancies advance the mated milkers will start to dry up, leaving us with a diminishing milk supply, but in October that should all change as their kids are born.
This is page 1 of summer update 2013