I will, in due course, write at length about the poverty in Malawi. I've met poverty before, of course, in India and the Far East, and am beginning to realise that it has a different meaning in different countries. For instance, in India the poverty feels embedded in the caste system; and there is, now, enough money in the economy to tackle its extremes. Conflicts in the Far East have left whole populations with a country to rebuild, and the determination to do just that.
And in Malawi ... I came away feeling that the poverty is so entrenched, with millions of people reliant on food aid and no prospect of earning enough money to support their families, that it will take miracles for anything to change.
For instance, this is a typical roadside market:
Heaps of green vegetables, under tarpaulins, at the roadside. Which is fine in the rainy season, when there are green vegetables to sell.
In contrast, this market stall looks fairly prosperous, with its carrots and beans and peppers:
I was in Malawi in the rainy season, and vegetables were relatively plentiful (though the variety is still limited). But when the rains stop, and the ground dries and vegetables shrivel, what then? Millions are dependent on what they have grown themselves and stored (which varies from year to year, depending on the rains), or the sacks of maize donated by the World Food Programme. Of course we can't leave people to starve. But as the years go by and people are still dependent on food aid, there is less urgency to tackle the poverty problem themselves.
What about work? There's work for the lucky few, and even then wages are low. Everyone else lives from one rainy season to the next.
The Malawians are kind, generous, welcoming people. They deserve better.