We like the mansion-like lodge that we are staying at. The dining room is so elaborate. The "restaurant" is a large dining table that people are seated at when they come for a meal. This morning we sat with two Ugandan nurses who were visiting Malawi and a Romanian telecom worker by the name of Eugene. Conversation flows family-style across the table.
During breakfast Agnes Katsonga Phiri appears again. She told us that she wanted us for lunch that day. She said, "there is no option." Well, we had our entire day planned out and really couldn't do that. She is so generous and hospitable. We decided to go to their place for dinner on Tuesday night, instead. She's the one who brought over a cell phone for us to use the night before.
The Lodge we're staying in is still working out a few bugs. First, there is no Internet. There is no hot water. There is a satellite TV, but you can only watch the channel that the owner is watching in the main sitting room. There is no air conditioning; this has been a challenge with our 90 degree plus temperatures....but these inconveniences are not enough to dampen our excitement to be here in Malawi that we love.
Our body clocks still need adjustment. We got up at 4:00 am ready for the day. It would not be until 10:30 am that the elder Eliphazi Salawila and Gracious Mpilangwe would get us in Cephas Chapamba's car to visit three of our projects today.
First we stopped at the ATM at the nearby Chichiri Shopping Center. I waited in line for about 20 minutes before getting to the machine. My Master Card Cash card worked right away. The largest bank note in Malawi is the 500 Kwacha. That's about $3.80. You have a lot of paper to carry around. There are little or no coins in their currency.
Visiting the LifeNets Projects
We then go to Gracious' and his wife Loney's home on the outskirts of town. LifeNets has helped him get started in a poultry operation. He is raising 200 laying hens.
Malawi has undergone severe spikes in the cost of maize, the main staple....both for man and beast. The price of maize had quadrupled from 1500 kwachas (about $10) for a 50kg bag to more than 4000 kg in less than a year. Now the government has put a price cap of 2,600 kwachas on a bag of maize. This has caused severe disruptions and hardship because everyone is affected by this commodity. Maize makes up a large part of the content of feed and its price has escalated.
They sell their eggs to grocer venders in trays. A tray contains 30 eggs and sells for about $4 - $5 a tray.
The challenges, too, are with poultry disease and chickens killing each other. But, they are making a go of it and we are encouraging them to continue building up their business which they call WATI Enterprises. They will be trying raise broilers, but seem to prefer the steady income of the laying hens.
This past summer Gracious and Loney hosted Jennifer Myers who came from Indiana to teach our Business 101 course.
They served us refreshments and we had a pleasant conversation.
From there we drove to Fred Chimboso's neighborhood. The last mile to his place was some of the worst road that I had ever been on. We crawled along at five miles an hour avoiding about anything that you could think of: children, rocks, ruts, etc obstacles. But, we got there.
From there we drove to Mr. G. G. Chakaza's home. We helped him get going with a honey business. He has two sources of - one is from hives near Blantyre and the other is from out towards Monkey Bay. He has built a processing plant for straining the various kinds of honey that he puts in jars and sells. The Japanese have come into the area and have heavily bought up lots of honey operations.
Mr, Chakaza's wife died in July, 2005.
That was our days visits. Gracious drove us back to our lodge. We stopped at a service station to fill up the car with gas. Six attendants greeted us at the pump. I asked them to fill the tank. Ten gallons for EIGHTY dollars! That took 2/3 of my daily limit for withdrawl at the ATM. I just don't get it. The gap between rich and poor is vast. Ninety-six percent of the people live at poverty level and only a tiny few live like we do in the West. My heart goes out for the poverty. But, just giving money or things to people without education or instruction of understanding of value and how it happens is a cruel deception. We have tried to do our part in improving the lot of these people through promoting education, developing self-sufficiency and a change of attitude toward life. It's a small step, but we are doing what we can in our small way.
We asked for Mr. Salawila to stay back with us and have dinner. We really wanted to talk about a lot of things relating to how the projects were going and hear his recommendations. We spent a very profitable and enjoyable three hours with him before sending him home by taxi.
A very good first full day in Blantyre, Malawi.
Seeing Livelihood Development Projects in Blantyre
Sunday, October 05, 2008