I'm here in Malawi for the month of March and promised I would keep all of you up to date on my blog. I resolved to blog for each leg of the trip:
3. Mzuzu (Ekwendeni, Nkhata Bay)
Well, I'm already in Mzuzu, leaving tomorrow for Khande and feeling a bit behind on blogging. So here's a brief overview of my first few days in Malawi which I spent in Lilongwe getting settled and touching base with people in the capitol city.
The main purpose of this trip is to work with 5-7 different producer groups, testing the working relationship between them and Dsenyo. I propose to follow the same program with each group (training, samples, quality control, order) which takes anywhere from half a day to 2 full days depending on the skill level of the group and the complexity of the product design.
I am introducing many people to Dsenyo on this trip including producers, government officials, leaders in the art/design community, and ex-patriates living in Malawi. I explain that Dsenyo acts as a bridge between customers in America and small-scale producers/artisans here in Malawi. We enable women and artisans by improving their skill level through training on our designs and give them access to a bigger market by selling to Dsenyo. Everyone I have spoken with so far are eager and willing work with us and support Dsenyo's mission other ways.
It is the tail end of the rainy season here in Malawi. The rains came late in the central region this year, forcing farmers (80% of the population) to replant their crop since the first one dried up. This means that the harvest will come late in many parts of the country so the government is encouraging people not to pick "green maize" (fresh cobs) but to let the crop mature and harvest at the end. Food security is always and issue in Malawi, even with big strides in the past couple years.
What the rain means for me, is that I have plans A-D for each day. For example:
- Plan A: On Monday, I was supposed to meet with a sewing group near Area 23 on the outskirts of Lilongwe. Monday was a beautiful sunny day, but unfortnately the group changed the days that they meet and not longer meet on Mondays, but Tuesdays.
- Plan B: Finish shopping for materials in town for products.
- Plan C: Drive north towards airport for materials if can't find them in town.
- Plan A: The next day, an hour before leaving for our meeting, the rains started...with muddy roads leading to the group, the Toyotal Corolla I'm renting couldn't possibly make it plus the group meets outside so they can't work on rainy days.
- Plan B: Work on cutting and preping materials for training sessions
- Plan C: Meet in a week when I'm back in Lilongwe and hope for clear skies!
So far, things are going according to "plan". I thoroughly enjoy working with people in Malawi and am encouraged that this will be a great trip.