After a six a.m. start and a 5hrs bus ride through the “warm heart of Africa”, we finally reached our destination of the day: the Chitseko Village. As part of the Mangochi Diocese, this area lies near the southern tip of Lake Malawi and is strung between the main lakeshore road and the Shire River.
Following a warmhearted welcome of song and dance, the community leaders explained to us that not only do they struggle with severe droughts but that the composition of their land is one that does not retain water. As a result, the Chitseko community suffers from malnutrition and poor food security.
An additional negative affect is that people from the local community travel to the cities to look for employment, resulting in an increase in HIV/AIDS infected people.
With assistance from Caritas Malawi (CADECOM), the community has shifted their agriculture production to drought-resistance crop such as sweet potato, soybeans, pigeon peas and sorghum. Since these are not the indigenous crops in the area, however, they were growing maize and cassava instead of the more drought-resistant crops. With the help of Caritas Malawi, the community has developed new recipes so that they know how to make best use of these staples to achieve the most nutritional value into their daily diets.
Implementing soil management and returning nutrients into the soil is also a main priority to increase their crop yields. To encourage these practices, the community has been educated on the best ways possible to make compost using dung, crop residues and water. This initiate is driven by both local government and Caritas and uses two approaches: one which remains exposed and needs to be turned regularly while the other is sealed with clay and allowed to decompose overtime.
A beautiful analogy was given about the need to work cooperatively between the community, non-governmental organizations and governmental institutions using the grains of sand on which we were all standing.
He indicated that individual grains of sand can be easily blown away in the wind, however, when grains of sand unite, they form a rock which can have much more impact.