The standard greeting in Malawi, “How are you?”
Cold! ...The novelty of being back in the cool of the UK is wearing a bit thin now - after spending two increasingly uncomfortable months in Malawi’s searing climate - we were not even sure of the temperature as our only thermometer buckled in the heat!
But it was a good trip, very busy, lots of challenges, but great joys too. Much was accomplished, many assisted, and our new Centre opened.
Report of Malawi trip - Sept/Nov 2008
Then we took him home. His mud house has 3 tiny rooms, - one strewn with papers where he studies, a bedroom where they all sleep, and a storeroom empty except for the bags of food we’d just bought. The roof was in shreds and the basic toilet facilities shared with other families, yet he presents himself smartly to school every day, dressed in the uniform provided by Aid Africa, and works hard in class. We’ll further assess, but probably help with a new roof and a livestock project to improve the family’s diet and provide income.
Of course we help those we can, those we know are particularly vulnerable. John came to us. He thinks he’s about 20, but both his parents died so long ago and nobody else has told him his age. For years he’s headed his family of 5 brothers and sisters, and is in our education programme. He’d just taken his final exams, and he and his family hadn’t eaten for days. We took him down to the market and bought a few basics – maize, fish, salt, nuts, vegetables, oil & soap.
This part of Africa still works quite successfully on a “tribal” system. Each village has a Village Head, or Chief, who is responsible for the day-to-day running of the area, decisions, judgements and the welfare of those in his care. A high and honoured position, yet many still have no shoes and are hungry themselves.
We met with more than twenty of these respected gentlemen, outlining our work and inviting comments.
Most want to work more closely with us so we’ve invited each to donate a portion of land for our Community Agri-Gardens this year. Instead of planting with fertilizer - a bag is now nearly £30! – we’ll be multi-cropping with sorghum and pigeon peas, using manure, so even if one crop fails due to the extreme
climate, others might not.
Hunger, however, is still the major problem faced by the vulnerable communities. Following 2008’s poor harvest, the price of maize is about four times the cost of earlier in the year. Many are not eating for days, and further south, in the Shire Valley the situation is even worse. Our manager there tells us that people are so desperate that they are diving into the Shire River, among equally hungry crocodiles, to find water lily bulbs to eat.
It’s hard to convey the level of grim poverty and desperate hunger that these people face every time the harvest fails as it did this year. In the UK we stumble to our cupboards, fridges, and freezers packed with goodies and moan that there’s nothing to eat. Over in Malawi, choice is usually not an option, the cupboard - if they had one! - really is bare, there’s nothing at all to eat in so many of the homes that we assess – and not much likelihood of change either. There are hardly any jobs, so if you don’t grow food successfully your family doesn’t eat. Period!
This is page 1 Autumn trip 2008