Planting the seeds… (Day 4)
(Heading in another direction)
We headed east early this morning towards Lake Malawi and the village of Chifuchambewa. The first portion of the trip was on a very nice paved two - lane highway, it actually had shoulders and a guard rail that consisted of just the cement posts – the metal rods connecting them had been stolen, but it was better than nothing. The remaining portion of the trip was on an unpaved, rutted, more like one and a half lane road that of course required a slower speed. It took us a little over an hour to cover almost 30 miles. This part of Malawi is very hilly and reminded me a lot of southern California – sort of brown looking, but with more trees than we had seen in the areas west of Lilongwe that we went to on the previous days. This region of Malawi is known for growing tomatoes and cabbages and as we drove along we saw markets with rows and rows of red tomatoes nicely displayed. The cabbages were very large and sometimes there would be a pile of them stacked along the roadside.
We also saw terraced gardens planted with cabbages and tomatoes – it reminded me of driving in the more hilly and mountainous regions in Italy where every inch of fertile soil was used for farming. While there were a lot of garden plots, not all of them were being used. It is very strenuous work maintaining a garden on a hillside!
Imagine that you are also farming with tools that probably have not changed much in hundreds of years. The hoe that is used is made from the fork in the branch of a tree, so that it has a bit of a curve to it, I guess it makes it easier to hold onto – substantial enough to withstand the demand put on it by hoeing and yet not too large so as to not be able to use. The other end has a metal hoe – these days usually made in China.
As we got closer to the village we began to see the occasional baobab tree – you know the kind with what looks like multiple big, fat trunks that have merged at the bottom and then taper off with skinny branches sprouting out at the top. They have a manufactured one in Disney’s Animal Kingdom that is the “Tree of Life” with intricate animal carvings in the trunk.
The village of Chifuchambewa has a unique situation for Africa Windmill Project – they have several natural springs that just bubble up out of the ground. The challenge is to use that water effectively and efficiently. Another organization had previously come and built a cement bore well structure over an area where the water was already naturally coming up. The water runs continuously out of a faucet. While we were there women were taking advantage of the ability to collect it in large, blue tubs. (While this is a huge advantage – remember that tub of water must then be transported back home, usually on her head!) The water then continues to flow down into a cement containment collection point where there are 3 different pipes that can direct the water into two fishponds and one garden. One fishpond was not in use, so the water was flowing into the other fishpond and the garden. There were at least ten other fishponds within the village – the national fish and wildlife agency had encouraged the community to start fish farming as a way to diversify the economy. There are three that the other organization started and nine that the villagers constructed themselves. It takes almost 15 months for the life cycle of the fish before they are large enough to sell - then after all of the investment of time and money spent on feeding the fish they may only make around $75 – and that gets shared among all of the men who help with the ponds. The difficulty is that the villagers do not have transportation that can get the fish to market. So they must sell it to someone else who can transport and therefore they do not make the profit that they could have otherwise.
On the other hand, we had seen farmers in other Africa Windmill Project locations that had learned how to grow onions that only take 3 months to grow and to harvest – and make almost as much money. Sometimes the villagers need to be given an alternative that is more efficient and cost effective – but they may not have been given all of the information necessary to do that.
We walked over to where there is a windmill in operation that Africa Windmill Project installed. It is similar to the one that we saw earlier in the week in that it has a cement container pond that allows the water to accumulate as the windmill pumps the water out of the spring. The group was given a time frame of 2 weeks to identify 2 lead farmers and get started on a demonstration garden before Africa Windmill Project would return.
The setting was just so peaceful – there was a fairly constant pleasant breeze, it was quiet – you could hear the birds in the trees. Abundant water available, interested farmers…all of the ingredients appear to be into place to get another Africa Windmill Project underway.
Tomorrow we leave for Tanzania! We will be spending the weekend in Dar es Salaam under the care of friends of John, so we will be well taken care of. The only way that made sense to get to central Tanzania is to fly through Dar es Salaam; otherwise you end up on a multi hour odyssey. Then you get into the complications of scheduling and timing and so we end up with an extra day in Dar es Salaam! On Monday we will fly to Dodoma in central Tanzania to meet up with Bishop Given. It will also become too complicated to bring a laptop with me, so I may not be able to get a blog off until we get back to Malawi on Thursday.