Sunday, 19 March 2017

My first, sketchy, thoughts on the poverty in Malawi.

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.

Or tomatoes:



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.

7 comments:

  1. Jo, do they have farms and farmers who grow in quantity there? I know nothing about Malawi, but in South Africa, most food was produced by the big farms, which also provided the work and housing for people in rural areas. Is this the same in Malawi? In the villages, in SA, they grew their own maize and veggies too, but it wasn't the only source of food.

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    1. There are a few big farms, but they are foreign owned and most grow tobacco or sugar cane or tea, employ local people - often on piece work.

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  2. I look at these pictures and I think: why would our own government deliberately drive us towards food poverty and impoverishment. I see times ahead when these pictures will not fill us with horror, but we will nod and say, yes, us too.

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    1. I agree there will be a significant proportion of our population who will suffer like this. But over 80% of the population in Malawi are officially in poverty, I can't see us reaching those levels without serious unrest.

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  3. I always ask myself, "What are their governments doing about it?" I would think other countries who provide aid would put pressure on them to do something about it. Of course the extreme seasons and weather doesn't help and no one can control that. I support a charity in Malawi that gives loans to people to help with their business. Lend With Care it's called. All loans you give are paid back and then you can lend money to someone else. I think it's a great way to help.

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    1. You're making a vital contribution, Anne - loans like that help people be independent and support their families without needing food aid,

      As for their government - ministers are hugely wealthy, and yet somehow there isn't enough money in the kitty to pay teachers regularly ... I know I have to write 'alleged' before 'corruption', but I've also heard Malawians talking about politicians stealing from the tax revenue.

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  4. This is the eternal dilemma. The longer a country is dependent on aid, the longer it takes them to become independent.

    Greetings from London.

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