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Last Stop Chinteche

Posted in Uncategorized on August 21, 2009 by cparcanada
The trip is almost over and the ride up to the northern town of Chinteche is both exciting and melancholy as a result.
We’re heading up what I call the coastal highway and its not long before we see vendors selling Chambo, the delicious smoked tilapia, caught fresh from Lake Malawi. I can’t wait to see the lake itself and its not long before we’re riding alongside its sandy beaches and rolling waves. California without the bad air. For awhile, you can see the hills of Mozambique in the distance.
Alibe samples the Chambo

Alibe samples the Chambo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We left Lilongwe later than we should have so we’re riding in the dusk/dark for the last hour and a half. It gets dark In Malawi by 6pm at this time of year which seems odd to a Canadian programmed for long summer evenings. Alibe can’t drive very fast because the frequent towns are full of people at dusk. It all looks so exciting but we’ve got places to go. There are also lots of people walking or cycling along the highway and all the drivers slow down and yield to them, so different from Uganda, the Warm Heart at work.

The morning comes quickly to the sound of waves along the beach and fishermen pulling in their nets. Most accommodation up here is by the magnificent lake and it seems a bit like paradise. You can stay in a western style resort for $200 a night or B&B at an “African” resort for $25. I always choose the latter because of the “extras”…the staff’s kids hang around and talk to you, “real” i.e. local food, no tourists, and the beach is used as a walkway and so a great place to chat with local folks. Our room also came with its own gecko who politely left after gentle prodding with our empty water bottle.

The day is another great one and we hook up with Allan and Laban at the Chinteche office and visit a number of water projects that CPAR is working on with UNICEF. The WASH program either rehabilitates old broken down water points or sets up new ‘systems” in villages or at schools. The basics are the same as in Tanzania…a well, improved latrines, handwash stations, education and local ownership. At Chilala School, Head Master Gilbert Kuanda is an enthusiastic host as he reveals an additional benefit…a huge garden irrigated by runoff from the well.

Rhoda points out the papaya at Chilala School

Rhoda points out the papaya at Chilala School

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The day ends too soon at Msindu waterpoint. The well has been broken for 10 years and today it will pump water again. The villagers all chip in to help the engineer and water committee replace the broken rods. At about 4:30, committee chairman Alec Phiri and his group pump out the first gushes of clean water.

Water flows again at Msindu

Water flows again at Msindu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

87 year old village elder Mtanda Mula is there to join in the celebration.

Village elder Mtanda joins the celebration

Village elder Mtanda joins the celebration

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Even better, local merchants have been educated to stock well parts so that future problems can be fixed immediately.

Alec, Mtanda & Allan make the water flow at Msindu

Alec, Mtanda & Allan make the water flow at Msindu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our last day is spent visiting community groups or CBO’s that were created to help the Malawian government respond to the AIDS crisis. We return to Tawonga CBO that two years ago was just starting out and operating a day care for orphans from under a lean to. Today, Tawonga (“thank you” in Tonga language) has raised funds and completed a nursery building and a community centre.
Outside Tawonga CBO

Outside Tawonga CBO

I can’t imagine another group of volunteers anywhere doing what Tawonga does as past chair Judith Sauli walks me through a chart of sub-committees…a youth group and garden, adult literacy, nursery, elder home care, orphan care, communal farm.
Judith Sauli and the volunteer masterplan
 
The morning goes quickly as each group sings, dances and presents.
Tawonga youth group drama on domestic violence

Tawonga youth group drama on domestic violence

In the afternoon, we make the long walk through a former swamp to Tawonga’s farm that provides food and income for its various programs.
Walking back from the farm, "its just over there"

Walking back from the farm, "its just over there"

I get to know youth leader Dave Banda. He’s 20, his parents died of AIDS and he’s raising his 2 younger brothers. He admits that he’ll never go to school again and that his role is to make sure his siblings get the chance.
Dave Banda, an inspiring youth

Dave Banda, an inspiring youth

I’ve met so many people like Dave and Judith in Africa and that I become infuriated when I hear people talk about Africa “failing” whatever that is supposed to mean. The truth is, we’ve failed Africa and individuals like Dave and that’s a whole other story.
The ride back to Lilongwe is an odd one. For the first three hours, I don’t want to leave Chinteche and my eyes don’t leave the road. I take about 50 pictures of I’m not sure what.

Holding on to Chinteche...bridge without a railing

  Holding on to Chinteche…bridge without a railing

When we hit Salima the southernmost beach town though, I can’t wait to get to Lilongwe. Alibe and Joseph our great travelling companions for the past 3 days valiantly try to coax me to a chambo dinner. I opt for a bag of Malawi nuts.

Our flight home leaves at 2:30am, the trip is over, I’m resigned to the reality.

Unmega Projects in Malawi

Posted in Uncategorized on August 17, 2009 by cparcanada

What always strikes me most when I visit developing countries is how effective seemingly small simple solutions are at helping ‘make poverty history’. I got struck again today when we visited several health and food programs that CPAR is implementing just outside of Lilongwe.

The first community we visited, Kunthulu village, has been part of a program dealing with under 5 year old child survival and cholera. The former is an ongoing challenge in rural areas and the latter was in response to a cholera out break in Malawi in the Spring.

CPAR worked with the local health officials to develop a team of 20 volunteer outreach workers who fanned out to 800 households in the area. Going “hut to hut”, volunteers educated villagers on the “17 Steps” designed to prevent early childhood illness and cholera. The steps cover everything from handwashing to latrines to mosquito nest to breastfeeding.

Zachias goes over the 17 steps with a family

Zachias goes over the 17 steps with a family

We met several of the volunteers including the leader Zachias Baziyo and also stopped in to some of the households.

Volunteers Gerrard and Zachias demo a handwash station

Volunteers Gerrard and Zachias demo a handwash station

Folks talked knowledgeably about the 17 steps and handwash stations and enclosed water containers (for cholera) were in use. Small, simple solutions.

CPAR's Dennis and Vester prevent cholera with a simple solution

CPAR's Dennis and Vester prevent cholera with a simple solution

Arriving in Kambalani Village, we saw the 3 S’s at work again.

Lucas Golombe had built a fish pond with local supplies and labour and stocked it with tilapia fishlings provided by CPAR. His daily catch is now a source of protein and income. There are 20 other ponds in the area and the farmer/fisherman share nets and supplies to keep costs down.

Lucas and Faedesi prepare to go fishing

Lucas and Faedesi prepare to go fishing

Down the road, there was a bustle of activity outside of a house that was dotted with buckets and clay. Trifonia Jamu a local farmer was leading a production run of clay energy saving ovens. The ladies worked quickly and skilfully, kneading the clay by hand and then, using the run of the mill buckets as forms, producing perfect ovens ready for the kiln. They’ll be sold at the local market for about 450 kwatcha (uh…about $3).

Trifonia (right) organizes energy saving ovens production

Trifonia (right) organizes energy saving ovens production

Nothing high tech here but the ovens will save trees and provide extra income for farmers like Trifonia. The oven shape etc itself is locally designed to account for locals need and materials and much different from the ones I had seen in Ethiopia and Uganda.

I’m struck again.

The Warm Heart of Africa

Posted in Uncategorized on August 15, 2009 by cparcanada

The first time I was in Malawi it truly seemed like an oasis. It was after two weeks of grinding along Ethiopian and Ugandan roads in the dry season. Compact Malawi (shaped a bit like a chilly pepper) just had its rains and so was green and lush. The highways were fully paved with few potholes. And then there was Lake Malawi, a site for sore eyes and buttocks if there ever was one!

Malawi after the rains

Malawi after the rains

I knew almost nothing about Malawi thanks to Canada’ eurocentirc school system and it didn’t make the Canadian news because it has had no wars or Idi Amins…you know the real Africa. Instead it was run for its first 30 years by Hastings Banda who I gather was a benevolent dictator. He preached peace, and tolerance (warm heart!) while apparently dealing with rivals ruthlessly in private and assembling a bit of a financial empire for himself.

Malawi in 2009 still has its warm heart, is working to recover from the devastation of AIDs, and is pummeled by regular droughts and resulting famines. I may want to live here.

We flew into Lilongwe the capital after a night in the Nairobi airport which thanks to free WiiFii, boona (coffee) and shops that open at 5:30am went fast. I notice that the Lilongwe airport also advertises free Wii Fii. Our flight out next week is at 2:30am so I’ll have a chance to try it out.

We’ll be here a week, half in communities around Lilongwe and half up north in Chinteche along Lake Malawi. My mind shifts to sandy beaches and chambo.

Lake Malawi at Dusk

Lake Malawi at Dusk

I’ve pulled out the language guide that I pulled off the net and start cramming my Chewa. I did the same in Uganda and Tanzania and now have to try and forget my hard learned Acholi and Swahili. I’ll need to learn some Tonga for the Chinteche area and I can see some rough linguistic road ahead.

There’s also a new currency, Kwatchas, that convert at a different rate than either the Ugandan or Tanzanian shillings. I always did well in math but after changing some money at the airport I don’t know my Kwatchas from Kuches (as in the local beer).

My “Hot Club of Cowtown” money clip strains at the bulk of paper that I now have and my pocket looks like its concealing a huge mango. When we get downtown, I learn that the government has just closed all the For Ex bureaus for regulatory issues. That would “never’ happen in North America. The airport conversion now seems like a good idea.

A quick look around and I’m glad to be here. The downtown market is bustling, the souvenirs vendors at the corner are in full gear (“looking is free”) and I just saw my first traffic light in two weeks. Lilongwe apparently has about a dozen.

Lilongwe's Outdoor Market

Lilongwe's Outdoor Market

Better hit the street, Lilongwe shuts down at 6pm.

On Nyerere, kids, houses, cell phones and more in Tanzania

Posted in Uncategorized on August 14, 2009 by cparcanada

Visiting Tanzania can be as overwhelming as its size (twice as big as California!), beauty and history. It’s hard to absorb it all in a week so here’s a hodge podge of things from my notebook as we make our way to the airport.

Julius Nyerere was Tanzania’s first postcolonial leader and president for almost 25 years. He was known as the “Mwalimu” or teacher in Swahili and his greatest legacy is that Tanzania’s 120 plus ethnic groups have lived in peace since independence. He united the country by giving the country a common language, Swahili, and had it taught in all schools in addition to the local dialect.

Julius Nyrere, Mwalimu

Julius Nyrere, Mwalimu

He also had all students go to secondary school and live in communities that were of different ethnicity than their own to promote multiculturalism. He was the Baba wa Taifa (you’ll have to look that one up) and I think the country’s Trudeau. Do we ever need these guys today!

Buying a house is different in Tanzania than in Canada. In Canada, with very little money down, you get a mortgage, find your place and you’re in. Here it’s all cash on the barrel. So, homes are built in stages as the money becomes available. As a result you see homes in progress emerging in front of the old thatched huts.

New Boma, Old Boma

New Boma, Old Boma

We visited UMATU, an organization that advocates for and supports people living with HIV in Karatu. See its amazing history at http://www.cpar-tanzania.blogspot.com/. Part of their business plan is to develop a full-fledged bakery (“because the bread in Karatu is terrible”) and to sell unique crafts to the folks passing through to the Ngorogoro crater and Serengeti. They make handbags out of traditional khangas and a big seller this season is guess who?

Obama visits UMATU and Sabina

Obama visits UMATU and Sabina

I don’t think I’m going to surprise or offend anyone if I state that childhood in Canada and the west in general is over-commercialized and structured. Kids here in Karatu still are able to enjoy the simpler in life things mainly because they don’t have all that stuff (cell phones, game boys etc). So, kids make a game out of chasing the rare vehicle that passes through their village and often catch it!

A race to the finish line

A race to the finish line

 

Kids ask to have their picture and expect not more in return than the chance to see their face on the tiny LCD screen. When a few dozen of kids are around, its gives a new meaning to the word swarming!

Swarmed in Laja Endebash

Swarmed in Laja Endebash

Speaking of cell phones, lets have “the talk”. Rural Africa will never see a land line system like the one Ma Bell built. The system here will be wireless and its happening fast. Imagine my surprise when visiting Rebecca (previous entry), a phone dingles and this farmer who has to walk 5 kms just to get water, reached into her pocket and pulled out her phone. And of course it makes perfect sense.

Phones here are cheap; access is both a lifeline to the rest of the community and a gateway to information, and people pay as you go. Westerners have cell phones, these folks need them. So when you start to see more images of poor African farmers with cell phones, remember this isn’t wasteful or decadent, this is a necessity and a sign of progress.

Hey its market day. Thousands of people will show up to trade and buy food, house wares and clothes. And…those black things in a row are sandals made of old tire rubber. The Massai love them so I just had to pick up a pair of size 10’s.

Market day and a good rubber soul

Market day and a good rubber soul

 

Each little town has its “hangout” called a kiosk and appropriately it is also little. A good place to have a soda and avoid the sun or the rain, shoulder to shoulder. The couple on the right, Pascal & Fabiola, are farmers in Maghesho who took part in CPAR’s MBH program and who invested some of their crop proceeds in this new business to create a new income stream for their family.

Where everyone know your name

Where everyone know your name

Pasha. Every culture has its rally cry and here it’s a pasha. It’s a sign of appreciation that’s way better than high fives. The Awet students, our Country Director Jean and the “Sisters Du” (the nurses from Algonquin)  http://algonquincollege-blogs.com/africa2009/  really get into it here. Thanks for joining me in Tanzania. Last stop, Malawi!

Big Pasha!

Big Pasha!

Why I Didn’t Give Money to Timothea

Posted in Uncategorized on August 10, 2009 by cparcanada

OK, today I’m going to write a bit about what I think is just about the hardest thing to do when I visit a developing country (or in fact in Canada now that a street underclass is forming). I’m talking about not reaching into my pocket when I’m approached for a “dollar”, “pen” or sometimes much more. I refer to it now as “why I didn’t give money to Timothea”.

I met Timothea at Awet Secondary School just outside Karatu. The school is one of the top rated in the area and students either perform well or they won’t likely last long. Timothea approached me after a short concert featuring some students and visiting nurses from Canada who have been teaching a health education program to the girls.

Chatting at Awet, that's Timothea in the white shirt on the right          

(Chatting at Awet, that’s Timothea in the white shirt on the right)

 He asked me a bunch of smart questions about Canada, our government, and customs. Seems he had a crush on one of the nurses. I talked to this truly talented and well spoken 17- year old for over half an hour. As we left, we agreed to drop him off at his village which was just down the road.

I sat in the back with Timothea and his life story poured out. His parents were dead and he lived with his 25 year old brother who was an alcoholic and drank away their meagre funds. This is not an unusual situation in rural Africa so I didn’t doubt that it was unfortunately true. One doesn’t need to invent harsh realities here.

Timothea continued and I learned that he had ambitions to go on to college and needed to raise funds himself. He asked me if I could buy 10 notebooks for him (at about 3000 shillings or $3). He would resell them with the profit going to his college fund.

I wasn’t too surprised when he asked as I’ve been approached many times before and I don’t blame the Timotheas I meet one bit. And it wasn’t the cost and it never is. And I would have walked away feeling good about myself for a few minutes, my western guilt pacified.

And in the process I’d be making the situation not better but worse much worse just as I‘ve seen so many westerners do before.

So I said “no” and explained that my support of the broader work being done at Awet and in the Karatu area was the appropriate way to help individuals like him. Timothea smiled said goodbye and waved. He’d been turned down before.

So why didn’t I give money to Timothea?

Well, my position rests on the broad principle that interaction between cultures should have positive outcomes for both cultures. So I don’t agree with aid that is tied to trade which can undermine the very local markets of the aid recipients that are so important to their self sufficiency.

I don’t agree with mega projects that are developed by donors without the input of communities who then blame the locals when they don’t work (e.g. a big mosquito net distribution project in Tanzania is failing because the nets being distributed are made by a western firm for single beds whereas children here sleep on hut floors in groups of 4-6).

And I don’t agree with giving children or adults handouts as this nurtures begging. Begging is not a positive outcome. Our cross cultural interaction should elevate the dignity of the people we meet and not rob them of it. And there are plenty of healthy options…just read some of the other stories in my blog.

Good development..working with the community

(Good Development: working with the community in Maghesho, Tanzania)

So that’s why I didn’t give money to Timothea or give the youth with the big smile in Karatu a pen or give the lady at the Kilak Corner crossroads in Uganda a dollar to take her baby girl’s photo after she jovialy called “ Hey, munu”! (hey whiteman)

cassava seedlings not pens in Pader Uganda                                                                                                                    (Cassava seedlings not pens in Pader Uganda)

 Each time, the cost was small, each time the people were clearly in need, and each time I might have felt I had done a good deed.

And each time I would have done the worst thing possible. Timothea seemed to understand and I hope that other westerners who plan to visit a developing country like Tanzania do to.

Winter in Tanzania

Posted in Uncategorized on August 8, 2009 by cparcanada

We spent the night at the Lutheran Hostel which will be home for the week. After the constant travelling in Uganda, that seems quite a appealing. Also, “hostel” does the place an injustice as its quite nice…basic, clean, nothing fancy…and rumours of hot water. You can’t ask for much more than that!

We got to the CPAR office and everyone is wearing their fleeces. Apparently its winter here now and the mornings are a “cool” 15C. My story about 20 below Canadian winters doesn’t get much traction.

A group of engineering students from Stanford are visiting and working on a great solar project. They’ve hooked the office up to WiFi so there should be a reliable internet access this week which is a bonus.

We head off to visit some farmers who have participated in CPAR’s Moving Beyond Hunger (MBH) program which wrapped up in the Spring. Nderingo and Dale still have the fleeces on even though sunshine has replaced the clouds.

The road is even worse than yesterday’s but the landscape is breathtaking and we share the road with ox carts and cattle and goats.

Morning rush hour

We pass by a water pipeline that originates in Kataru but seems to be bypassing most villages.
Water pipeline outside Karatu

After almost an hour, we arrive at Maghesho sub-village, and continue on to meet Rebecca Lazaro. She lives at the top of a hill that you can only reach by walking so up we go. I later learn that Rebecca makes this trip 2 or 3 times a day for water collection and other chores.

Rebecca is part of a Farmers Field School set up under the MBH program and which brings community members together to learn skills and share experiences. In addition to receiving training on crop diversification and improved growing techniques, Rebecca received a piglet in February. The pig is now grown and pregnant. Under the program, Rebecca will give away the first piglet to another community member as a form of repayment. The remaining pigs become valuable assets and Rebecca can sell them as needed to generate income for her young family.

Kutie, Kutie

I’ve seen variations of his program now in a number of countries and it is very effective and surprisingly simple. Pigs in particular can quickly increase a family’s income as they produce two litters of up to 10 piglets each year. Rebecca has named her pig “kutie” and her calls of “kutie, kutie” showed the lighter side of this hard working farmer.

I noticed a “Co-op” logo on her shirt. It never ceases to amaze me how clothes and other goods make it to remote parts of rural Africa. Being a good westerner, I was obliged to give a brief history of the Co-op movement in Canada and also highlight how its cooperative spirit was evident in the Field Schools.CO-OP's are everywhere!

We head back down the hill to the van. Winter must be over, the fleeces are coming off.

Rebecca, Dwight & Dale head back to Maghesho

Rebecca, Dwight & Dale head back to Maghesho

Welcome to Tanzania

Posted in Uncategorized on August 5, 2009 by cparcanada
Welcome to Tanzania

Tanzania is a beautiful country even though it is starting to get overrun by tourists in places. On the drive to Karatu from Arusha in the north, you pass rugged Massai cattle pastures, the Great Rift Valley at Lake Manyara and then the rolling hills that surround Karatu itself. In places it looks a lot like Ethiopia which makes sense given the Rift Valley passes through both.

Rugged Tanzania

Rugged Tanzania

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first difference I notice in Karatu this trip is the new Japanese built highway or tarmac as its referred to locally. It gives tourists a quick ride to the Ngorogoro Crater though locals who mainly walk, don’t benefit much.

We visited CPAR water projects at primary schools today.

Lunch break at Haraa School

Lunch break at Haraa School

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These are rainwater harvesting systems that collect rain off the school roofs in the rainy season and store it in huge 30000 litre tanks for use year around. It’s a centuries old idea that is ideal for the local climate. Pit latrines and hand wash stations are part of the package in addition to hygiene education. Simple effective solutions. 

We met with many of the students and they truly are quite remarkable. These are rural kids, children of subsistence farmers. When we asked them what they want to be when they grow up, they told us “daktari” (doctor), president, pilot and politician.

CPAR's Nderingo and Martina, a future daktari (doctor)

CPAR's Nderingo and Martina, a future daktari (doctor)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 The water projects will help them reach these goals as clean water and good sanitation improves attendance, reduces illness and improves learning. Already at Qara Samaray primary school, the number of students reaching the District top rankings has doubled.

Outside the water tank

Outside the water tank