Travelling from the searing heat and high humidity of the African Bush, to the freezing temperatures here in England, is quite a shock to the system! But it’s good to be back to share some of the amazing things that have happened in Malawi during the past few months....
We’ve planted 36 Community Agri-Gardens throughout the region which should harvest dozens of tonnes of maize in April 2008. However, the coupons to buy Government subsidised fertilizer, expected by the subsistence farmers locally, failed to arrive in time to plant with the rains. With the promised fertilizer, each farmer would have had the chance to harvest enough maize for his family, but now it’s expected the harvests will be minimal, so hunger probable from autumn 2008, with the next harvest due Spring 2009.
OPEN HAND PROJECTS (OHP) - our “working title” in Malawi - continues to profoundly impact the lives of thousands in the rural areas. Life is tough, the climate’s aggressive, and the vulnerable indescribably poor, so always at the mercy of hunger, disease and lack of education.
However, we urgently keep training in manure production to break the gloomy mindset that claims “fertilizer or famine!” We believe manure is much more valuable.
Last year’s Rainfed and this years Irrigation Agri-Gardens have fed hundreds of families with maize and vegetables, but the situation is deteriorating. The next few months promise to be increasingly difficult as hunger develops into starvation. So much maize has been lost to weevils this season, despite chemical treatment, so we’re urgently considering innovative ways of preservation, and alternative crops.
Dorothy, sick but grateful for the donated blanket and vegetables from our garden
Thanks to Jenny’s sponsorship, we have extended the Play Centre to 5 mornings a week, and increased the number of acutely vulnerable children to 10. They are cared for, given milk and other nutritious food, and lovingly encouraged to play, learn, and socially interact. Unfortunately we lost one particularly vulnerable little boy, but all the others are developing well, watched with amazement by the local
community. With joy we saw little 2yr-old Pemphero stand up
and walk, something that was doubted she’d ever do,following
the acute malnutrition and neglect that had endangered her
It’s still early days but our Milk Project is growing. The original vision of biked milk rounds into the local villages, for vulnerable children, has taken it’s first steps.
We’ve established a milk drop in Sapale
Village where our milk sustains youngsters
who are affected by HIV/AIDS, and two sets
of twins. With mothers so malnourished
themselves, effective breastfeeding is often
difficult, so with twins, almost impossible.
Powdered milk is too expensive, so our
goats’ milk is being recognised as a
Most of OHP’s work is community-based, but “Mercy” gifts are usually directed to vulnerable individuals or families.
The Loan-A-Goat and Education Sponsorship Programmes are examples, but we also help with funding transport for healthcare, provide blankets and mosquito nets, rebuild houses, and supply plastic paper to reinforce roofing - especially vital just before
the torrential rains hit.
This 8 yr old suffers from hydrocephalus - she’s having medical treatment, but her family is unable to afford the transport to hospital.
Falace suffers from leprosy, but she’s more concerned with the state of her roof as the rains are imminent.. OHP supplies plastic paper to make it weatherproof, and volunteers to rebuild it.
To sustain our growing herd we rented an extra field to trial plant soya., but it will also add extra nutrients to the diet of those in our Play Centre. Soya is not usually grown in this area, due to it’s need for more complex processing, but it’s enormous nutritional potential makes it worth trying!
Inevitably, developing a dairy herd is a slow process, but it’s growing - all of our “girls” had healthy twin kids, and are producing enough milk for the Play Centre, Sapale milk drop, and to keep the freezer full for emergencies.The 2 female kids will be run on to see how they mature, keeping them for breeding/milking if suitable. The young males will become the basis for three Male Goat Clubs, providing valuable manure. OHP enjoys a good working relationship with government officials, both in the veterinary and
agricultural fields, all of whom are supportive of our work.
Unexpectedly we had a call from the central Veterinary College
to tell us that they had 4 x 75% sanen female goats available
for us, rather than having to wait till next year as previously
discussed. Pure-bred saanens produce plenty of milk,
but aren’t a native breed so are particularly at risk in the
However, if mated with local stock the cross produces a
hardier animal, more resistant to disease and extremes of
climate. So we collected our new young does and since
then they’ve grown and filled out beautifully, and we
have high hopes for their future with us.
We are outgrowing our current rented site, and need to consider buying our own land and building according to OHP’s needs. To keep our goats in tip top condition for maximum milk yield we need to have dedicated pasture- land, both for grazing and cropping.
Communities in Malawi are so thankful to our UK sponsors who are enabling their poorest teenagers to be in school - OHP’s friends are currently sponsoring 75 enthusiastic youngsters but there are always more waiting - just £37 will fund a child’s education for a year - school, exam fees & uniform
We repaired 2 boreholes while we were in Muona, and left the spares for another two when qualified staff return. Those repaired were Maheya which stopped working last year, serving 4 villages with 600 families - about 3000 people, and Nthondo which had been out of use for 4 months, leaving 2 villages - 2500 people - without clean water and prone to water-bourne disease. Both are now working well and being managed by new committees
Nthondo Bore Hole - our Manager checks the repair which benefits 2500 people
We formed our first co-operative venture - a clothing business run by a group of five women. With our business loan, they bought a bale of clothing, added value by presentation, then sold individual items at the local markets.
Additionally, we’ve helped others to create small businesses in rice trading and catering. These loans have the potential of establishing women in the rural business world, getting them on the first rung of the ladder towards self-sufficiency, thus empowering them to feed, clothe and educate their own families.
Report of Malawi trip - Oct/Nov 2007
Renovated Play Centre
The amazing work continues .....