Saturday, May 26, 2007

Me and my sister Martha. She is the same age as me, and lives with the family to help with the daily chores and running the maize mill. We have a good time hanging, despite the fact that I do not speak much Chichewa and she does not speak much English.

sunset near my house

Girl in the window of a maize mill

A note on Communication

Communication here is very difficult. The nearest Internet is 50km from my house, and phone network is limited. I apologise if I take longer than normal to reply to emails, but please feel free to email me with questions or comments anyway.

Mawira and Mrs.Malawi

Mrs. Malawi
Mr. Zulu

On Tuesday May 23rd I made a visit to the village of Mawira with Mr. Zulu. Mr. Zulu works in the Agriculture and Natural Resource Management department of BERDO and was also born and raised in Mawira. He has had the opportunity to see the changes the village has undergone over the past 50 years. He showed me the house where his family grew up. He showed his grandfather’s grave which was near the house. He explained that the reason it was not in the grave yard was because he was a chief and it was a special honor to be buried in the community. He also told me how his grandfather had had another wife and family in another town. I asked why they were so far. He explained that it was a way to secure more land, so that other people could not settle there. Polygamy is not common today in the area, and I asked him why this was. He said that men could not afford to have more than one wife, there is not enough resources.

We continued toward the escarpment and walked though the school grounds. Children were having classes outside, sitting under the shade of big trees. We walked up a steep hill where Mr. Zulu pointed out a stream after which the village was named. The spring was feed by a spring a little farther until the hill and into the forest. It was the first real forest I had seen since I got here. The word "Mawira" means to boil, which is what the water coming out of the spring looked like. Mr. Zulu explained that though these trees are not legally protected (one of the causes of deforestation in the area), no one would cut these trees, because they know without them the spring would dry up.

We had planned to have a meeting with the village about the evaluation of the BERDO’s project, but there was a problem in communication and the village was not aware of the meeting. Where the meeting was to take place, women from six villages had gathered to have their young children weighed.

We returned the next day to have the village meeting. Mrs. Malawi was one of the women at the meeting. She shared with us her story as a case study.

Namachenja Malawi
Previously Namachenja Malawi’s husband had problems finding wood for poles. Now they are able to build the homestead completely from their own trees. She is also able to sell the extra trees to others in the community. With the money she has been able to buy a number of tentenges. She is planning to use extra income to invest in goats, and inputs for her summer crops.

BERDO'S tree nursery
Community presentation of argo-processing equipment. The cernals of maize are being removed from the cob. This is a very labour intensive activity when it is done by hand.


The past two weeks that I have been working with BERDO I have been involved in an evaluation of a two year project that was funded by Oxfam. The projected covered a wide range of rural development programs including:

- providing inputs
- loans
- livestock loans
- training for planting techniques
- access to markets

Natural Resource Management
- forest management
- collecting seeds
- planting trees
- plantings to prevent soil erosion

- education
- testing
- counseling
- Home Based Care
- Drugs and training to take care of sick
- Vegetable and herb gardens
- Assistance for orphans

Gender and Education
- education on gender equality practices

The main activities of the past two weeks was going to villages where these programs were implemented and assessing their impact through a community meeting. It is exciting to be involved in work where the impact is clearly visible. Every village I have been to has indicated that the programs have made significant improvements to their lives.

It is unfortunate that Oxfam will no longer be providing funding BERDO, but they will continue has many services as they can. The organization has a number of its own income generating activities, such as the growing and selling of maize, vegetables, and tobacco. Also, because the project put an emphasis on sustainability the villages feel they will be able to continue many of the practices they have learned through the project.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

the back of my house
my neice

First Week

It has been a busy exciting week. On Tuesday May 9th I took my first steps in Africa. One week later I have a family in rural central Malawi, and a job with a local development organization. I am just starting to develop a daily routine. I get up between 5:30am and 6:30am, go for a run, bath, eat breakfast, and walk to work for 7:30am. I walk home for lunch, and finish work at 4pm. The sun goes down at about 5:30am. After which it is very dark, as there is not much electricity in the area. I go to bed between 8:30pm and 9:30pm.

There are 8 people in the household including myself. There is my host mother who is a retired teacher and my host father who is a retired police officer. I have 4 brothers and 1 sister, as well as a nice from Lilongwe.

The household is quite self-sufficient. Almost all the food we eat is grown on their land. They growth millet, maize, bananas, pumpkins, green peppers, tomatoes, rape, turnip, papaya, limes, and mangos. They also raise chickens, goats, and cattle.

I am feed very well. My host family says they want to send me home fat. For breakfast I have eggs with a green pepper and tomato, fried potatoes, bread, fruit, and fresh milk with Milo. For lunch and dinner you have a starch, which is either nsima, fried potatoes, or rice, a meat (chicken, eggs, fish, or beef), and vegetables (cabbage, rape, carrots, tomatoes, green pepper). To drink, there is water, tea, pop, or milk.

First Couple Days

So far…
After only two and half days in Malawi we have danced and sang with a community choir, eaten nsime on the floor, ridden in a minibus, Ross got hit by a car (nicked by the side mirror) and Preston fell in a sewer (deep ditches on the sides of the road). We have bartered in the markets, seen ten live chickens transported hanging upside down on the handles of a bike, washed our clothes by hand, drank the local beer, and started to learn Chichewa.

Arriving in Malawi

Muli Bwanji?

This is the first thing you say to anyone in Malawi. It translates to “how are you”, and is the standard greeting. The past few days in Malawi have been amazing. I am definitely in the honey moon stage of travel; the period of time where everything is new and exciting.

It was a very long trip here, flying over 3 continents, an ocean, and a sea. I left Toronto Sunday night and arrived in Malawi on Tuesday morning. I was excited to collect my baggage get to the hostel. My bag, however, decided stay a little longer in South Africa. This was something no one seemed too surprised about. It really wasn’t a big deal; the worst of it was wearing the same clothes for almost five days.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Take off

After five months of preparation the departure day has finally arrived. This past week has been such a learning and growing experience for me. I've been forced to think about a lot of important development related issues and question my personal and cultural values and assumptions. I have made some amazing friends, which I will be sad to part with once we have arrived in Malawi.

Our bags are packed and we are ready to start on our journey. We first fly to London, England over night, have a ten hour lay over, then continue to Johannesburg, South Africa, where we board the final plane to Lilongwe, Malawi.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Photos from Pre-departure training

Study break - handstands on UofT campus

Training - Drawing our self portrait

The first night in the house, where all 27 of us live for training

Morning walk to training sessions

Team Malawi 2007

Team Malawi 2007
The Malawi team meets for the first time in Calgary during the EWB National Conference