Our only full day in the Zomba area began with a trip to the Domasi Likuni Phala production facility. Likuni phala is a fortified maize flour that has certain nutrients added to make it a more balanced food. The Domasi facility was started by World Vision Canada in 2001 but has been wholly owned and operated by BSHDC since 2008 – which is convenient as it is located on the Domasi CCAP Mission itself.
After seeing the milling process and learning a bit about small-scale flour production, it was on to our next stop, H. Parker Sharp Medical Centre, also located on the Domasi Mission. This was perhaps the most troubling visit of all. While parts of Ndirande were worse off, there was always an air of hope there. H. Parker Sharp was the first time, twelve whole days in, that we experience a sense of hopelessness. The maternity ward had recently closed due to a lack of resources forcing women to walk or get transport to another hospital many miles away. The clinic still looked after the needs of the children from the schools located on the mission – but it seemed only just barely.
We returned to Naming’azi for a rather somber lunch after our visit to H. Parker Sharp before heading out again to visit a village that was having an “open house” of sorts to celebrate the livlihood programs that BSHDC was providing. The phrase “Open House” doesn’t quite match what we saw when we arrived. There were over a hundred men, women, and children dancing and laughing and generally having a good old-fashioned block party, Malawian-style! There was a shaded area for the VIPs (evidently there would presentations and speeches) but we were somewhat relieved to discover that we were the second-tier dignitaries. Eight of the local village chiefs would also be attending the event – which is apparently quite a big deal.
We were treated to presentations outlining each of the BSHDC livelihood programs present in the area – and the senior chief even tried his hand at sewing which brought howls of laughter from everyone – especially the women! When the speeches were done, we, along with two dozen or so villagers, walked a few hundred metres to a small farming plot where we learned about the benefits of growing sweet potatoes versus maize.
The excitement and energy of this community was just what we needed to see after the morning’s visit. We laughed and danced our way back to the coaster (well, some of us did) and headed “home” to Naming’azi. On the way, we made one more stop to hear a personal story of the “goat program.” Under this system, qualifying families are given a female goat – the only condition is that they must give the first-born female goat to a neighbour – arranged through BSHDC – and that goat starts the process again. We heard how a single goat (and its progeny) would allow a family to send its children to school – or provide enough income and food to simply sustain a family.