Life is never dull in Malawi - it’s packed with lots of events and happenings, some good, some difficult, some disappointing.....
Prior to, and throughout our 3 month trip, the weather
was changeable. Brief but thunderous rain, high winds,
and searing heat, led to the maize harvest failing
miserably in most areas. So many families have already
reached the end of their meagre food supply. They had
invested so much energy into growing their maize, only to watch it destroyed by the climate, and now have little to eat.
So we needed to buy in maize and expected to have to fight for every kilo after the poor harvest. However, we put the word out that we were buying, and packed trucks arrived, along with ragged children with half-buckets of grain, and ladies toting babies on their backs, and their maize for sale bundled in cloth.
So we bought in tons of maize - the basis for more than 50,000 meals. Most will be reserved for the hunger months (Christmas-March) for assessed vulnerable families, and the rest shared during these next few months as hunger escalates
Having worked through this period often before, we understand the need to feed those most at risk. Our target group remains the same:- orphans, the elderly, disabled and AIDS-affected. We actively discourage dependency and promote self-sufficiency, but experience teaches that there are many who through frailty due to age, sickness, lack of resources - tools, seeds, education - and even energy due to hunger, are unable to help themselves.
We need radical solutions to the hunger problem. The Malawian mindset seems only to accept maize as the staple diet, but it’s such an inefficient crop - so reliant on climate and huge quantities of expensive fertilizer. Recent studies are also suggesting that too much unmilled maize can lead to health problems by lowering immunity.
We haven’t grown any maize for 2 years in our Community Agri-gardens, but favoured sorghum (millet) in its place, backed up with pigeon peas and cassava. We’re also encouraging them to grow protein-packed soya, so have provided seeds, and by agreeing to buy the beans at harvest, we’re offering a ready-made market, which has always been the problem in the past. If they see it’s saleable, they’ll grow more, and as they become more familiar with it, hopefully they’ll include it to enhance their own diet
On site, we’ve established an extensive vegetable garden, and began distributing the first fruits to the poor as we left Malawi. Being so aware of the expense of fertilizer in Malawi - only a tiny minority in the rural areas could possibly afford it - we’re heavily focusing on manure alone - a fertilizer-free site. We
feel we’ll then have more to share with the farmers around us, and can demonstrate steady success with local “materials”.
Hunger is important, but nutrition is very central to our thinking and planning for the future. Our goats’ milk is invaluable among the orphaned babies, malnourished toddlers, and those with HIV+ mothers. We’re still growing Moringa - a tree with leaves packed with nutrients - as a food supplement, and developing vegetable gardens, chicken, and now rabbit projects, both at village and household level.
One important project is the provision of indigenous vegetable seeds for seed multiplication gardens in villages. Along with Bvumbwe Agricultural Research Station, we’re promoting the growing of these highly nutritious, non-hybridized veggies. They are drought and pest resistant, quick germinating, and replicate themselves faithfully, season by season.
We’re encouraging individuals to prepare “backyard gardens”, a small piece of
land next to their house, irrigated by the household’s used water, and stacked with manure. Our vision is to empower all-year-round vegetable production. Carefully prepared and planted, this little patch could not only feed the family 3 harvests a year, but the surplus could be sold at market to provide basic needs.
Some of our 37 Community Agri-Gardens survived, planted with the rains last November, and the produce will be shared by the vulnerable in each village.
Down in Nsanje though, we lost all 10 gardens- despite some even having been replanted three times - as did most of the locals, so food is scarce, expensive, and hunger is rife.
This is page 1 Summer trip 2010