After the World Vision part of my trip I went on a safari with a couple of friends. It was a big change from the places we had visited off the beaten path - but it gave me the chance to see the beauty and majesty of this peaceful country up close and personal.
Speaking of majesty - found out that just a few weeks before we arrived at Mvuu Wilderness Lodge, that Prince Harry was there helping with the elephant relocation program.
You see, with poverty comes all kinds of nasty ways that people try to make money to survive, and one of them is poaching. Poaching elephants, taking their tusks, and selling them on the black market brings in money. And money can be used to buy food for your family. So when you're desperate you do desperate things.
Things are turning around in Malawi. Yes, there's still poverty, but the government is cracking down on the poaching because they need the animals. Rhinos, elephants, zebras and all of those mighty creatures found in Malawi bring in tourists and tourists bring in money. Simple as that.
Now that the numbers of elephants are increasing, the government - along with Prince Harry - has been busy relocating these lovely beasts to other parts of Malawi. And that my friend, is a sign of progress. Increasing herd numbers, increased sightings of different animals, including the elusive Sable Antelope, means stability and more potential to attract foreigners to your country to spend their money on lodging, food, and those fine crafts from the market that I'll be carrying back in my overfilled suitcases.
Turns out Prince Harry stayed at the same lodge we were staying at. Wow! Imagine that! To say you ate at the same table as royalty is kind of cool, even if it wasn't at the same time. Anyways, while eating my breakfast outside on the deck of my cabin at Mvuu lodge, a vervet monkey visited me and tried to convince me to give him my bisquit. "No no," I told him as I pointed to a sign. "You remember the rules. No feeding the monkeys." He was most perturbed.
So in honour of Prince Harry's visit I named this cute little creature "Prince Harry". He's cute, he's got a sense of adventure and he has good manners. After all, he didn't steal my bisquit like some of the other monkeys. But then again that's another story.
One of the highlights of visiting another country is getting a chance to meet the kids. Totally loved every moment I got to play and dance and sing with these awesome children. No trouble understanding each other here. We all smile in the same language.
After a two hour drive over some of the most difficult ''roads'' - and I use the term roads loosely - and then a short hike up a mountain over rocks and rushing water, we finally came to our destination. It was worth the trip. A gravity fed system that brought water from the top of a mountain in the Nsikita region of Malawi to over 30,000 people in the valley below. Totally amazing when you think of the work that was involved in laying the concrete, the pipes, pumps, and filtering systems. But the perseverance of World Vision, the government and the people of the community has paid off. People aren't dying of cholera, children are now able to go to school and crops are being irrigated and thriving. Simply lovely. An engineering feat worthy of a standing ovation. Which we did. And then we danced a little too.
So what does a termite hill have to do with nutrition? It's rather simple actually. In places like Uganda the termite hills are larger because there is more rain and the termites have an easier time digging into the ground. In places like Malawi the conditions are very dry - red dust blowing in your face during the dry season dry - and the termites have a harder time getting deep into the soil to make their grand castles that pop up all over the African landscape. So it makes sense that dryer soil conditions mean less productive land and lower crop production. Add climate change to the equation and you get a nasty situation.
Today I visited a cooperative feeding program where mothers brought what food they could offer from their gardens and shared it amongst their neighbours so a more balanced menu could be provided for their children. Some women provided peas, others, rice, corn flour, pumpkin, soy beans, pumpkin leaves, amongst other farmed goods, depending on the season. The malnourished children were weighed periodically during the 12 week program and great results were always found. The women learned better feeding practices and they felt confident in their child's progress.
A good thing you must admit. A simple solution to a very difficult problem. All organized by the women themselves to help those who they love the most: their children.
Visited an irrigation system that the community of Chingali, Malawi put together with World Vision. The crops on the right shows what happens when you're able to provide water to your garden, compared to the desolate and dry conditions on the left. When we returned to our truck to head off to another site, our World Vision guide ever so politely said, "Oh, by the way I forgot to tell you about the crocs. There are many many in that river." "Oh," I said. "Oh." And I left it at that. Sometimes it's better not to know everything.
My journey as an author, giving voice to child soldiers.