Report of Malawi trip - Sept-Nov 2012
Scorching heat, high humidity, acute water shortage, erratic fuel and electricity supply—all feature heavily in Malawi’s lifestyle. But the beaming smiles and warm welcome are still evident, despite the grim poverty, hunger and hardship.
So what’s been happening during the latter part of 2012?
As we meet with Chiefs, and ask them about the challenges their villages face, No.1 on the list is always “hunger”. As we visit the vulnerable, we often find no food at all in their homes, sometimes they haven’t eaten for days. One elderly widow’s only food resource was potato peelings!
However, alongside relieving hunger, our passion is to improve nutrition.
We provide goats’ milk for orphaned and AIDS-affected babies, training in effective farming techniques to greatly increase yield and crop diversification, and the promotion of moringa — a tree with leaves packed with iron, vitamins A & C, protein, calcium, and potassium. The leaves can be eaten raw, cooked as a green vegetable, or dried and milled into a food supplement—a process which we plan to begin during 2013.
As the staple diet in Malawi, we bought in 15 tonnes of maize earlier this year, and had some milled releasing bran for the livestock mix.
The “hunger period” is from December to mid March, so our stored maize was prepared ready for the 1st distribution at Christmas to about 600 people assessed as at nutritional risk. This will be repeated in January and February, enabling 145 families to eat at least one meal a day throughout the hunger period. The extra in stock will be issued as “tokens” according to need.
The harvest in March was dismal again this year, so inevitably hunger is now increasing among the vulnerable as maize stocks run low.
We store in special grain bags instead of the traditional dusting with pesticide to kill weevils. The bags suffocate any weevils without chemicals, but have to be checked regularly as any damage will render them ineffective.
Additionally, being concerned about the hungry—especially the plight of the frail elderly—for the first time this year we’ve also bought packs of prepared soya to go along with the maize, and soap—a real luxury if you can’t afford to eat!
In addition to all we’re currently doing on a regular basis, we also distributed blankets, clothing, small business grants, food, school fees & uniforms, plastic paper for roofing, and funds for emergency transport and healthcare - working with the local communities to benefit the frail and vulnerable.
Acceptance of these leaves has the potential to radically improve the health of both the villagers and the livestock on which they rely to trade for basic necessities.
This is Page 1 of Winter report 2012