"Food Crisis Malawi October 2005" Blantyre by sebblit7

Blantyre Travel Guide: 12 reviews and 13 photos

The Situation

Although Malawi is famous for the huge lake which runs down pretty much down the entire Eastern border, simple irrigation techniques have not been effected. This means that a country that could have three maize harvests per year, relies on one. Planting season begins at the end of the year and harvesting is during March/April. The maize is dried and crushed into powder which is then stored and is supposed to carry the family through to the next harvest, a year later. The powder is boiled in water until it forms into what can best be described as Polenta. This is a staple diet in many parts of Southern Africa, in Malawi they call it Nsima, in Zimbabwe they call it Sadza, in South Africa it's called Pap. It's eaten with a relish of vegetables or meat. So anyway, each year it's pretty easy to see whether or not there will be a food shortage and WFP (the World Food Programme) has a pretty decent monitoring system that can predict their food aid requirements. We spoke to some families that had only managed to harvest two 50kg sacks of maize, this is supposed to feed a family of eight for the entire year. Once the harvest season has ended and as the months go by, commercial maize sold in the market place traditionally rises in price. When I was there last month the price of maize per kilo was MK37 which is the highest it's ever been at this time of year. Since many people are subsistence farmers who rely on what they grow for their own sustenance and to sell, it's pretty obvious that none of these people are going to have any cash when all they managed to produce was two bags of maize. Now compound the reliance on rainfall for 1 annual crop with disease like Malaria, the biggest killer in Africa, followed by AIDS, which in some areas of Malawi prevalance is said to be as high as 32% We interviewed a 47 year old grandmother who was HIV+ her husband had already died of an AIDS related disease. She had lost two daughters and a son in law to AIDS related disease, the other son in law had simply disappeared. She was taking care of 9 of her grandchildren, two of whom were infected with the virus, the others had not been tested. She had produced 5 bags of maize from the previous harvest, which lasted two months. They eat one meal of maize per day, relying on WFP food aid and trying to raise cash by selling scones, breaking up rocks to sell to local builders, or chopping down trees to make charcoal which they can try to sell in the market. But since so many people are suffering, they're all resorting to the same desperate measures, so as the price of a scarce commodity like maize continues to rise, the price of products like charcoal and broken rocks continues to plummit as the market is flooded.

Checklist

Visas? No
Health Certificate? No
Disease? Malaria, Typhoid, Cholera, Hepatitis, AIDS
Anything to pay on arrival? No Pay US$30 on departure
Letter to customs for TV equipment? Yes, try to prearrange with NGO or UN. We got stung, though many others got through fine, so take a chance but prepare for instant headache on arrival.
Press accreditation? Not necessary in Blantyre, but if entering through Llilongwe where the HQ is, it is advisable to pop in.
Hotels? Yes see under hotels. Protea, Le Meridien, Hostellerie de France.
Internet facilities? Yes at Le Meridien (28kbps) connection from dataport in room
Cellphones? Yes Celtel, roaming with SA MTN is available.
Car Hire? Yes see transportation SS rentacar
Airport transfers? Yes US$10 each way if staying at Le Meridien.
Feed Facility in Blantyre? According to TVM's Harry Chuma it's possible, see contacts.
Electricity? 240v plug type UK three pin square
Weather conditions. The rainy season is expected (November), we measured 42C in the shade at Nsanje district in the South.

Contacts

WFP - Matthews Cel +265 887 3761 (Matthews live in Llilongwe but has been in BLZ for the last few weeks
WFP - Mike Huggins JHB Cel +2783 291 3750 (He'll let you know who's the current contact in Malawi.)
Chris Endean - +39348 155 7630 (Rome based - escorted us around WFP activity South of BLZ)
UNICEF -Sarah Crowe Cel +2783 402 9812 (Johannesburg)
UNICEF - Aida Girma Cel +265 996 4130 (Llilongwe)
UNICEF - Adibayo Cel +265 996 4208 (Llilongwe)
Customs official at BLZ - Loyce Kamulete Cel +265 995 7018
Le Meridien Tel +265 620 071/812 Fax +265 620 154
SS Rent a Car - Sam Singh - +265 1 621 934 (ask for Peter to be your driver) check under transportation BLZ for more details on price, vehicle condition, etc.
Look under general tips for more info on Peter our driver who carried tripod and sound bag with pride.
Harry Chuma - Chief Production Engineer TVM (TV Malawi) Cel +265 955 8981 Tel +2651 672 498 Email harrychuma@yahoo.com
Peter Mazunda - Don't know this guy can't vouch for him. He walked up to me at the hotel and gave me his business card. He's a technical director at Kings-Multimedia Productions situated in Blantyre, he may come in handy. Cel +265 995 0279 Tel +2651 674 596 Email kmp@globemw.net

  • Last visit to Blantyre: Oct 2005
  • Intro Updated Nov 6, 2005
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sebblit7

“You can go by camel in a bureau drawer. You can go by Bumble-Boat or jet. I don't care how you go, just GET!" Dr.Seuss”

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