Welcome to Lilongwe!

Hello, friends!

I started this post from the front porch at the Africa Windmill Project office in Lilongwe, Malawi. But time got away from me in the middle of our trip, so I’m finishing this up from the States.

Going back to Lilongwe…on our first Monday in the city there was a slight breeze and the sun was rolling high in the sapphire sky (says my favorite song). We arrived in Malawi on Friday, March 22 around noon and spent the weekend exploring the city, and learning about the culture that makes up this beautiful space. 

There are many things I planned to blog about: Malawi history and culture, the AWP staff, building community across the globe, Jesus, freedom, hospitality. I have so many thoughts swirling in my head and I'm still trying to process all of it. I want to start with writing about our weekend, sharing some stories and photos that mark our first few days overseas. 

On that Friday we met up in Johannesburg (Margaret and Wanda coming in from London, Kimberly and Kyrsten arriving from New York City) and took South African Airways into Lilongwe. Upon arriving, we were met by Gibozi, John, and Joseph. They picked us up and we drove to Damron Suites, our home for the week. 

The goal for the day was to stay awake. Malawi is 6 hours ahead of Florida and Georgia (where Kimberly and Kyrsten reside) and 7 hours ahead of Missouri (Margaret and Wanda's home) so we wanted to adjust to GMT+2 as quickly as possible. After dropping our bags at the hotel, we walked over to AWP's office and met the staff. Gibozi, John, and Joseph then spent the rest of the afternoon showing us around Lilongwe. We exchanged money and picked up some water and fruit from the store. Then we drove around and saw several monuments dedicated to Malawi's first president, Dr. Hastings Banda. One of the monuments was a giant tower, which we then proceeded to climb. The views of Lilongwe were spectacular! 

Photo: View of Lilongwe.

We also stopped in to see the new 5-star hotel that was just built. It was gorgeous! From there we picked up some dinner (chicken and chips aka fries) at a local restaurant and took it back to Damron to eat and crash. Day 1 success. 

Day 2 started strong with breakfast. Our lovely lodge staff made us breakfast every morning, which consisted of fried eggs, sausage, potatoes, and bread. We paired it with coffee we brought from home and had a feast! Originally we had planned to spend Saturday at the market and then have some down time, but the previous night we'd been talking to the staff about Lake Malawi. John said it was about an hour and a half drive, but everyone was up for the excursion. So we went to the market in the morning to buy some chitenzis (fabric wrapped around like a skirt) and then we started our drive to the lake.

Y'all. The lake was not what I was expecting. When we got out of the car we could hear waves crashing into the shore. We creeped up on the lake slowly and suddenly there was a sandy beach with waves and mountains off in the distant. Words can't do it justice so I'll have to let these pictures speak for me (although, these pictures don't do it justice either).

Photos: Lake Malawi (1&2). Doris sitting on a boat made from a baobab tree (3). Children playing in the water near the lake (4). Kyrsten, Doris, Wanda and Margaret (5). A Malawi native who was watching the children and washing some clothes (6). Kimberly and Doris (7). John with his fresh fish, ready to start the drive back home (8).

We enjoyed lunch at the lake and then started our drive back. Along the way we stopped at some wood carving shops and picked up some fun souvenirs. We had an official lesson in bartering from Doris (thank you, Doris!) and had a lot of fun with the whole experience. We also stopped to take pictures with a huge baobab tree that was by the road. 

Photos: A giant baobab tree by the road (1). Wanda, Margaret, Kimberly, Kyrsten, and Doris by the tree (2).

On Sunday we went to Flood Church. Doris attends Flood so we spent the day hanging out with her and exploring the city some more. Doris picked us up from Damron around 9:30am and then we walked half a mile to catch a minibus. The minibus is basically a 15 passenger van that operates like an on-and-off bus. You flag it down, hop in (or squish in depending on how many people are already in the van), and then tell the driver where you need to go.

Church was incredible. It was in English (which I was thankful for) and the room was full of ethnicity. Black, White, Indian, Asian. Through singing and worship it was clear that regardless of what we looked like, we were all one body.

Photos: Flood Church in Lilongwe.

After church we walked to the grocery store across the street to pick up some juice and fruit for the evening, and then hopped on a tuk-tuk and got pizza for lunch. After lunch, we hopped another minibus and drove to a tailor shop. We had our chitenzi fabric with us and Doris had a great idea to get some dresses made. We spent some time at the tailor, picking out our dress styles and talking to the tailors (male refugees from Burundi who spoke English, Swahili, and French). It was a neat experience! We then caught another minibus back to Damron. 

Photos: Walking around Lilongwe (1&2). The minibus that we rode from the tailor's to Damron area (3). Trying out a tuk-tuk (4&5). A Malawi native with her child (6).

Fun fact: along the road in Lilongwe there are checkpoints where police stand in the middle of the road and stop cars to see if they have the proper paperwork, updated license, etc. They also stop minibuses if they are traveling with too many people. Like, for example, 19 in a 15 passenger van. Which we were. We didn't have to get out or find a new ride, but the driver did have to have a conversation with the officer.

Once we got to Damron we spent some time with Doris learning more about her story. In the evening, Gibozi picked us up and drove us to his home in Area 49 for dinner. We ate with him, his wife, Esther, and their two boys, Israel and Ian. The food was wonderful, but the conversation was even better. We were building community 8000 miles away from home and it was beautiful.

Photo: Wanda with Israel (8) and Ian (4).

Armyworm Outbreak Threatens Crops

Symon’s Story

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Tobacco prices on auction floors plummeted and the lives of farmers living in Kamwena were devastated leaving families without enough income to survive. Kamwena’s group village headman, Symon Phiri, had spent the last decade successfully growing tobacco, but now he needed a new way to feed his family. 

In his desperation for survival, Symon made a significant shift. He left the crop he knew best behind and joined the Irrigation Club with Africa Windmill Project. After completing his initial training, Symon planted 5 kilograms of maize seed in his garden. Little did he know that this small amount of seed, combined with good crop management, would change their lives.

By implementing what he learned in irrigation club, Symon’s first maize crop was bountiful, but he wasn’t sure how well the maize would sell at market. To his amazement, Symon’s entire maize crop sold in 3 short days! With the profits from his harvest, Symon was able to purchase more fertilizer, a cow, and repair an old motorcycle. He STILL had money leftover, and for the first time, Symon had money to save!

Armyworm Outbreak Threatens Crop

An armyworm outbreak posed a serious threat to crops across Kamwena. Unlike many other farmers who unfortunately lost their crops, Symon was able to stop the armyworms away from his fields. With the money saved from his first harvest, he purchased pesticides to protect his maize from the advancing armyworms.

Symon’s second harvest produced 31 ox-carts full of maize! Needless to say, Symon was “sold” on the benefits of growing food with the irrigation methods he learned through Africa Windmill Project.

Symon believes that through irrigation farming, Malawians can grow enough food to win the battle against hunger and poverty.

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Because of the success of Irrigation Club participants New Agriculture Clubs are forming. By giving $200 YOU make a difference by providing an entire year of tools and trainings—all the supplies needed for a farmer to achieve food security! This impacts communities now and future generations. Lets Make a Difference Together.

Your Donation Matters!

Thank you to Alex Chipeta, on staff with Africa Windmill Project and to Africa Windmill Project volunteer Amie Siefert for editing this blog!!


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"Without Vision People Perish"

The rains came late this year but they were plentiful.  The grounds have just started to dry and farmers are gearing up to learn about dry season farming.  Africa Windmill Project is preparing to launch 12 new agriculture clubs which will educate 360 farmers.  We have a 4 year program, but food security is often established after the first growing season. One of the keys to Africa Windmill Projects success is partnership with the farmers.  For the first year the farmer provides all of the labor and tools, AWP provides a "starter kit" of fertilizer, maize seed, pesticide and irrigation pumps, the second year the farmer provides 50% of the fertilizer, pesticide and AWP provides maize seed.  After these first two years of input provisions the farmer is able to sustain their own gardens by reinvesting from the previous crop.  AWP continues to train the farmers by meeting with them regularly in years three and four.

In August we surprised some of the original agriculture club members from Mziza that we worked with in 2011 to see if they had continued their gardens and if indeed food security had been achieved.  We were delighted and humbled to see the impact that education and empowerment has had in this community.  You can read a story about what we found by clicking here.

So if you are still reading THANK YOU!  We haven't put in fancy pictures or catchy formatting.  We really just want you to understand the impact that YOUR partnership makes to Africa Windmill Project.  We are busting at the seams with farmers who are asking for our help, currently there are over 3,000 farmers that are actively in our 4 year program.

We wanted to share two stories about the impact that these trainings have, and to ask you for your help.  It costs AWP just under $200 per farmer the first year.  Would you consider partnering with us toward these trainings and first year inputs?

Keep Reading to see what YOUR Partnership Means to Farmers.

Our amazing staff sends us these stories, they do an outstanding job of understanding and communicating in English.  As you read, imagine you are sitting down with one of our staff and they are sharing with you a story about their day.

Ripple Effects of AWP’s Starter Packs – The Story of Mr. Chasowa Sandisi

Chasowa Sandisi is a farmer in Chigonthi Extension Planning Area and a member of Chimwemwe club of Nkhota village. He joined Chimwemwe club which was initiated by Africa Windmill Project last year in 2017.

Before joining the club to work with Africa Windmill Project, Mr. Sandisi was growing maize on his plot which is 0.5 acre but he could only get less than MK 10,000.00 ($13.88 USD) from the sales of the crops. This was because he planted maize seed that he got from his friends and some which he kept as seed from the previous rain seasons. The problem with that seed was that it had lost its vigor. He could also not afford fertilizer which made yield from his garden to be very low.

This year, Mr. Sandisi was among the famers that received inputs (1kg of maize seed and 5kg of NPK basal dressing fertilizer) from Africa windmill Project. Before receiving the inputs, Mr. Sandisi together with other members of Chimwemwe club attended a number of trainings offered by Africa Windmill Project. The trainings included: Agriculture business training, leadership training, vegetable management training and Irrigation Water management training.

From the inputs that Mr. Sandisi received, he is expecting to get a net profit of MK 140,000.00 ($194.44 USD) when he sells the fresh maize that he has produced in his garden. This means that he is going to make 14 times the amount of money he was getting when he was farming before being trained by Africa Windmill Project.

The money realized will serve as capital and Mr. Sandisi will be able to afford his own seed and fertilizer to re-invest into irrigation farming in the next growing season.

AWP Starter Packs Build Confidence and Trust - The Story of Yohane 

Yohane is one example of the majority of farmers who joined Africa Windmill Project irrigation farming at the point when he did not have confidence and trust in the crop the project was emphasizing on due to the past experiences.  Maize is commonly grown under irrigation however, the results of the traditional way of irrigation farming (watering cans or buckets) over the years have been very discouraging to most farmers when they compared the time and resources invested into the work against the results they got after the season. Such being a common experience among farmers it has been generally not easy for farmers that have just joined Africa Windmill Project in a new area to comfortably invest their resources into something they do not trust even when they have enough to do so.  When our farmers begin trainings with us we understand what they have faced and we know we need to build their confidence in the "similar" crop this requires wisdom and tact or the technology will not be adopted.

Irrigation farming is Africa Windmill Project main area of focus. Teaching farmers how to grow food and empowering farmers economically once and for all. To achieve this Scientific information is communicated in local terms that can be easily understood by farmers for a better crop production. Lessons learned in a class setup are put in to practice in individual gardens to demonstrate the usefulness and the reliability of the information taught. In his first year Yohane was ready to attend education trainings taught in a class setup but still could not trust the results. As a result, Africa Windmill Project gave Yohane one kilogram starter park seed and five kilograms’ basal fertilizer.  He also contributed five kilograms’ top dressing fertilizer and pesticides. Following best agriculture practices his crop looked nice from the beginning so he began to have confidence in the Maize and in his trainings.

Yohane did not only see a promising crop but also learned that knowledge is power. He realized that the long past experience of poor irrigation yields was as a result of the knowledge gap that has long existed between farmers and responsible agriculture officers. Africa Windmill Project has merged the gap and now Yohane has no choice but to save money to buy more inputs that he will use in the next season.

When he was asked why he thinks saving for more inputs next season was important, his response was “Without Vision People Perish”. From the inputs that were donated to him, his eyes are now opened. He has never before had a good and promising crop as this year. As a result, he feels he does not need to wait for someone to tell him what to do, he is more than ready to invest all his money in maize irrigation farming. His final words were thanks to Africa Windmill Project for giving him a life time opportunity that he has been neglecting in the past and did not know he was missing a lot, may God bless Africa Windmill Project.

Thanks so much for Partnering with us!

A Surprise Visit

Have you ever wondered about a group you used to be a part of or how your co-workers were doing from a couple jobs ago?  Africa Windmill Project's beginnings in 2007 seem like a long time ago.  We started our first agriculture clubs in 2010 and walked alongside those farmers for 4 years.  Earlier this month we were wondering how this first group of farmers were doing and just what they thought of Africa Windmill Project's program now that they had been on their own for almost 4 years.... The agriculture club was in Mziza and that first year of trainings there were a couple of farmers that immediately stood out as lead farmers in that community.  Working alongside  and watching these farmer's abilities and harvests grow was the fuel that ignited what today is impacting thousands of families.

One of these lead farmers, Japhet, doesn't live in Mziza anymore, but we tracked him down and he guided us to his new farm.  A six acre farm near his wife's home village.  he purchased the farm last year and had already made quite a remarkable homestead.  When we first arrived in Mziza we saw one grass corn crib, now on Japhets new land he had three bins that were over half full.  He had built (with fired bricks) a home for him, one for his older girls, one for his older boys, and one for his oldest married son.  He had a garden full of tomatoes and was so excited to show us his gardens and explain to us his vision for his farm.  He even has a good location picked out for when he is able to get a windmill!  He told us that his neighbors had asked him where he got his money.  He said to them "from you, you buy my food" and asked them if they wanted to learn how to farm like he did.  As you can imagine Japhet is now training his neighbors.  When we showed up he asked if there was any way we could get him some more of the rope and washer pumps so he could give them to his neighbors.  He still has the one from his trainings and uses it when he is doing his dry season gardening.  We were so encouraged by our visit with Japhet!

There were some other farmers that we visited.  Mr. Storo, Mr. Mchenga and even some that had never been in the club, but had learned by watching and were now farming using irrigation and the sustainable agriculture practices.  We were so encouraged to see that MZIZA IS FOOD SECURE and has been since the first dry season gardens in 2010!

It is wonderful to see these farmers independently food secure.  They are self sustaining and enriching the lives of their communities as well as empowering others to become self sustaining as well.