Food aid

Food aid villages 2014Last year the mais crop was very small due to the early end of the rainy season in the previous year.
Mais is the daily food of all the people living in the area of the Centre, bur after the very bad harvest there was not enough food to survive until the new harvest. The situation in the catchment area of the Centre was so severe, that the World Food Programme (WFP) helped the people with the distribution of tons of mais and beans.

Despite the help of the WFP there were still many people who are in dire need of food assistance. Thanks to extra donations from the Netherlands, Switzerland and Scotland the Centre has been able to distribute 6000 food packages between November last year and March this year.
Foodaid 2014A food package contains four kilo flower of corn, half a kilo soya and half a kilo flower of peanuts. With this mixture of flower a very nourishing porridge is cooked. Food parcels are distributed to individuals who are not able to take care of themselves and who did not get any help from the WFP. This mainly concerns single elderly people, orphaned children, disabled people, AIDS-patients and other seriously ill people.

Selection of the most needy people was arranged by the communities themselves, in public meetings. The workers of the Eva Demaya Centre took care of the delivery of the packages to those selected. The gratitude of the recipients was large, the food aid helped them to overcome the difficult period of food shortage.

Extra food aid needed because of local drought

In March this year the rain suddenly stopped in the area surrounding the Eva Demaya Centre. Drought prevented the corm in the fields from growing and ripening. Because of that the harvest has been bad for many people. Only a few months later, available corn is insufficient to feed the families.

Usually in situations of drought and food scarcity, the government and food aid institutions will help to improve the situation. This year the drought is only in a relatively small area and in that kind of situation little help form outside is offered. But without help, soon many people in our area will suffer from hunger. Especially children suffer when no food is available and it is heartbreaking to see them sit quietly on the ground with an empty gaze in their eyes. Also elderly and sick people are seriously struck by the food scarcity and not offering them help will be fatal to some of them.

The Eva Demaya Centre actively helps needful people with food parcels. For only 5 euro a family of 5 persons can be supported for 2 weeks. In our clinic a food parcel is assembled and distributed to very seriously ill people, chronically ill people, undernourished children and weakened elderly people. With this flower of corn, soya and peanuts they can cook a nourishing porridge. Food parcels are also distributed from the outposts of our policlinic.
This aid from the Centre gives hope to many people and makes a real difference in surviving the famine!

Rainy season ends too soon

Dried up maize
Dried up maize
In the area around the Centre, the rainy season has come to an end much too soon this year. It hasn’t rained since the beginning of March and nature is drying up. Apart from witnessing the sad spectacle of young trees and shrubs withering, the premature ending of the season’s rains is going to be very bad for this year’s maize harvest.

In a good rainy season most people manage to grow enough maize for the whole year. Fresh maize is normally available from the end of March or the start of April. The full-scale harvesting of dried maize takes place in June and July. This dried maize is then stored for the coming year.

Now that the rains have stopped far too early, the maize crop has not had a chance to come to maturity, so that the harvest here will not be a good one. This means that many people will suffer food scarcity after a few months. If these same people also have little or no income, then they will be facing a serious famine situation.

Dried up maize crop
Dried up maize crop

This premature end to the rains affects an area within a radius of 15 kilometres from the Centre. The area lies in the so-called rain shadow and is almost always drier than other parts of the country. Unfortunately, this year that difference has been big enough to be disastrous for the crop.

In the year to come, we as a Centre will inevitably be involved in offering food relief to those among the population who would otherwise have no way of feeding themselves.


Nursery children will lead

A little nursery can be found at the premises of the Eva Demaya centre. Children aged two to five can come here every morning to receive education and a nutritious meal. Especially the meal is very important, because many families do not take breakfast.
At the nursery children get an introduction to the English language, a necessary asset since the home language is the local dialect. Through a playful way the children learn basic English, which gives them an advantage when starting their primary education. When the children leave the nursery they know how to both read and write the alphabet and counting, and know the names of colors and shapes. They also learn some English songs and can introduce themselves in English.

Nursery children wearing school uniform
Nursery children wearing school uniform
The most important thing we want to teach them is to enjoy going to school and love studying. In Malawi this is not a normal way of teaching. Often teachers are not interested in teaching and this results in high dropout rates. Recently the parents and teachers came up with the idea to let the young students wear a school uniform. This is not only obligatory when they start primary school (due to the English system of teaching), but it is also a very colorful and cheerful sight!

Rainy season: always difficult

The first months in Malawi are important due to the long awaited rainy season. Everyone is busy planting products and the scenery is wonderful. However, now a days it is also a doubtfull period, because the rain is not self-evident anymore. When the rain comes later for only eleven days, as was the case in 2013, this does great damage to the crops. Crops which are necessary for their food security and income for the next year.
It is not only the future which is at stake these first three months of a new year. Food also becomes a scarcity when the old supplies are starting to run low and the harvesting is done in April. Almost nobody in the village has money at this time and people live day by day. Problems arise when a family member gets sick. For the family it is hard to find the money to get the family member to hospital, due to which weaker and sick people often do not survive.
During these months it is not uncommon that people come to the center to ask it for help. Many of these can be helped with corn, plastic to repair roofs, soap or blankets. If necessary people can be treated without charge in the clinic or the homeopathy room.
The end of February the Malawians start to make money buy harvesting tobacco and selling it. But this depends on the rains. Therefore the first three months of the new year it is a matter of survival till the rains start to fall.

600 Trees and Esperanza stoves

Watering trees
Watering trees
The Eva Demaya Centre has planted 600 trees on the grounds the last couple of weeks.
These trees are meant as firewood, since firewood is used every day for cooking. Due to the amount of children born in Malawi is higher than the amount of trees being planted, deforestation is becoming a big problem. A problem which is clearly seen on the mountains surrounding the center where many trees have disappeared these last decades.
In cooperation with the heads of the surrounding villages and the community, Eva Demaya Centre started protecting the hills around the center. Right now no more trees are chopped down and the hills are protected during fires. The results are visible to everyone and is very much appreciated.
However, we cannot protect all the woods and deforestation is still happening on a rapid pace; People need firewood to cook their daily meals! Therefore Eva Demaya intends to plant many new trees every year. These last weeks that were 600 trees, but hopefully many will follow!

The interior chamber of the stove
The interior chamber of the stove
Another project to protect the trees are the stoves which are being built at the center. To cook food this stoves only need half of the trees which are normally used to cook food. This way only little branches are needed which fall from the trees instead of chopping complete trees which cannot regrow. Since the beginning of the project over 500 stoves are built at the Eva Demaya center.

By spreading the Esperanza stoves in Malawi, deforestation is reduced!

Microcredit focuses on improving food situation

The start of this month also marked the beginning of a new year for the micro-credit project.
In the year to come, 80 people and their families will be helped by the provision on credit of fertiliser and seed. Fertiliser has become hugely expensive in Malawi, so a loan that allows people to buy it is a real help to people.
At the same time, alternatives to fertiliser are being sought. The authorities are now promoting agriculture with the help of compost. The use of compost also helps with water retention in the earth, something that is increasingly important now that there is less rainfall in Malawi than in the past.
However, it will take a huge effort of will to convince most farmers to change to this new way of working.

Heat and drought come early this year

The weather situation is Malawi is becoming increasingly worrying.
It is far too warm for the time of year and it has been bone dry for four months now, where it would normally have started raining by now. At the Centre this unprecedented warm spell has caused trees to bud, something that usually happens in November.
It surprises me that few local people seem bothered by this; they just take life as it comes.

Aftermarket for agricultural products

During the last rainy season many people grew soya in place of tobacco. Tobacco prices have been rock-bottom in recent years and the government also has encouraged the growing of alternative crops.

In our micro-credit project we have stopped offering loans for tobacco growing; instead we give loans to people growing soya and maize.

Those who participate in the micro-credit project repay their loans in kind, with the crops they have been growing. As a result, we have been looking around for a market for these products.

While looking for reliable buyer it became clear that people were having real difficulty in finding a market for their products. Since soya is a relatively new crop here, no proper exists yet for selling it.

To help people find markets for the soya they have grown, we are, as a centre, trying to set up a structural arrangement with a buyer of agricultural products, Export Trading Group. This is a company founded and run by people from India; they are active in 40 African countries and appear to have a clear strategy for stimulating African agriculture.

The Centre is busy organising three depots where the people can bring their products and where the buyers come to buy them. To ensure the proper functioning of the depots the Centre pays for security personnel and for a clerical assistant. For this the buyers pay us 5 Kwacha per kilo of soya sold.

If this initiative to create an aftermarket goes well, we will consider repeating the exercise next year.