I got a overview schedule papers about my project in Blantyre. There were so many practical things. Fishpond, rope pump, winter cropping, install fire-wood saving stove, etc. I was so excited about what I am going to do. I was a little bit worried at the same time. Because I need time to learn how to do those things and 6 months is to short.
After arriving at Dowa (our community), I met 5 project leaders and so many farmers and people. They explained about Dowa, Farmers club project, effective farming methods, etc. The Farmers Club in Dowa started in 2009. This year is the 3rd, which means that the process of project is finishing. So almost every community clubs have good system of farming and extension (livestock, fishpond). The most impressive thing was conservation farming. Three principals of conservation farming are Minimum tillage, Crop rotation, Mulching. “With minimum tillage one works together with nature and not against nature. Never plough the soil. A method is instead to dig planting holes where the new crop is planted.” (40 Green World Actions book, Chapter 20. Conservation Farming) This method do not destroy soil structure more than need, good for holding water, good for save fertilizer, good for having large amount of crop population. And if farmers dig the holes once, they can use same holes for next planting up to 5 years. The farmers have enough knowledge and experience about conservation farming thanks to passionate project leaders’ effort. I cannot say about speed of development, but I am sure their future is bright. Because they are trying to work with nature, and work with people, and communicate to each other. Local people are very cooperative when community does something together.
People in Dowa are poor. Malawi, as an agricultural country, has difficulties about land scarcity, soil erosion, deforestation because of firewood, etc. But Malawi has peaceful atmosphere, very friendly and diligent working people. I felt that people in Dowa have certain food security. They are self-sufficient. I was very impress when one of the project leaders said that proudly “People cannot be hungry. We have been introducing good farming system, and we can harvest anytime through year.” So, I felt a lot of pressure for the first 2 weeks, because 5 project leaders are so passionate about their role. Of course, leaders and local people know about farming much more than our Trio. And even people are satisfied with their improvement after working with DAPP. We have been thinking a lot “What can we do? What can we improve more?”. I feel pressure now also. But after 2 weeks, I started to think that I appreciate people who work together, and I am very happy about moderate amount of food production. I have been listening about other DIs who worked without the cooperation from project leaders, and I don’t mean we cannot do something without project leaders, but if we work with project leaders, it will be much more sustainable and long-lasting development. Because they understand more about this region and situation than us and they speak local language. We can take a lot of advantage from working together. Our Trio will live here for 6 months, and project leaders are living here. In case of taking over some responsibility about our trio’s projects, we can be sure more with cooperation from project leaders. I really hope every project has hard working project leaders or that our team members in other projects can mobilize their project leaders.
However, It is a big challenge. I don’t want to be useless for 6 months in Malawi. Even though project leaders are doing good job, and people’s life has been improving a lot, there must be something to improve more. We are looking for what we can do. Before we came here, our thinking was focus on gardening and farming, but I realized there is a huge system of nature and agriculture, we are just one part of big nature. We don’t have any right to destroy nature. The nature is not our own thing. So, when we use or borrow some part of nature such as water and soil, we need to think how to preserve it. We must live with nature, not just use nature. In terms of big nature system, the role of Farmers Club is not just increasing yield of crops and having food security for whole families. We need to have long-term plans. In my opinion, for idealistic farmers’ community, we need healthy nature and healthy people physically and mentally.
Now I can find what I can do for people in Dowa, Malawi. We looked around markets, school, post office, police station, water department, agriculture department, hospital, streets, library, children, etc. Until now, we reached some problems that we can work with. First, even though people have enough food, many children are not growing well compare to age. It is because of disease, lack of knowledge of nutrition, lack of care, etc. Second, some clubs don’t have preschool at all, or stopped running because of food issue. Contributing to education situation is always important regardless what kind of kind project. Third, many of parents don’t care about children’s personal hygiene. Forth, there is a lot of soil erosion. We need a lot of tree planting. Fifth, there is large amount of use of firewood. It takes a lot of time to grow trees. But the trees are burning in one hour for just one meal of one human. It is urgent to build firewood saving stove, or have moderate amount of electricity to use stove. We saw one house is using solar panel to produce electricity personally. It might difficult to raise the capacity of whole Malawi electricity. But we can promote and mobilize people to produce some electricity by themselves. It will be good for students also. For example, our night guard, Harold, always studies with small hand-light to pass DNS test. Sixth, there are not enough hand-washing systems in toilet or latrine. We need to protect us from preventable diseases. To be good farmers, we need health body. To be good students, we need healthy body. To live happily, everyone needs healthy body. There are basic rules for healthy body.
During the first month, we looked carefully at many things. And we started to work installing rope pump. We started to talk with people and to listen to them. I will follow Farmers Club’s routine faithfully, and I will organize actions from problems that we have seen.