It’s amazing how spending ten days in a different country can completely change your perception on life. Day-by-day we worked and filmed under the warm Malawian sun, getting up each morning in the brisk air to prepare. It was an exhilarating feeling, as we never knew what the day would bring us. Packed and ready to go wherever the African roads might lead us, we were ready to work.
By the seventh day we were going full swing on our production projects and filming under whatever weather condition the skies might give us. There were moments when we were stuck on muddy unpaved roads, pushing our van out of a ditch. Other times our crew would be constantly worried about rain interfering with our filming. The weather is always unpredictable as it nears the end of rainy season in Malawi. However under any conditions, we were ready to get the job done.
At home, we go about our lives day-by-day and don’t realize the little things that affect the economy and how much work and resources are put into making our country, the United States of America, the wealthiest in the world. Working in one of the poorest countries on this planet is eye opening.
Partnering with the World Food Program was an amazing opportunity. The executives and indeed each person we interviewed in Africa was a thrill to work with, as they shared their phenomenal stories and allowed us to be a part of the great efforts being made to improve the lives of the children and people of Malawi.
The World Food Program project I personally focused on for my video project is called the African Adaptation Program, or AAP. Providing aid for those in need in Malawi, the AAP helps the people of small villages prepare for and advert future environmental disasters caused by deforestation and erosion. The WFP assists the communities in better strategizing land use and creating a strong agricultural system that is sustainable. We visited two villages that are practicing two effective methods; the making of fuel-efficient stoves and the practice of afforestation, or replanting of forests.
Deforestation is a major issue in the country of Malawi, as a forest the size of a football field is cut down every ten minutes. Preserving the remaining forest area is crucial to the rural villages, and replanting of trees and efficient use of wood for cooking are key factors in doing this.
As we enter the Mvuduwa Village, the people welcome our crew with a traditionally exuberant song accompanied by drumming and dancing. It is a warm, inviting feeling to experience and share the joy in these peoples’ eyes despite their harsh living conditions.
The people of the village demonstrate the way they make clay stoves that burn less than one-third of the wood that a traditional fire would when used for cooking. The elegance and simplicity of the stoves were quite fascinating to see, as they used only materials found nearby the village.
The exact measurements to create these stoves were made of simple marked up sticks, whereas in America a variety of more complex tools would have been used. These fuel-efficient stoves made by the villagers provide income for the community when they sell and market them to other villages, creating a more sustainable existence for everyone. It is clear though, that without improved roads and transportation, the clay stoves are too heavy to be distributed widely. New infrastructure is needed to easily transport the stoves to more distant communities.
Our last and final stop was to visit Nessa Village, high on the slope of Mount Mulanje. Here they practice afforestation. Seeds are given to these farmers to allow them to grow a balance of crops with the right nutrients to sustain the community and prevent erosion and flooding along the riverbanks. In case of an emergency caused by unpredictable flooding and droughts, the World Food Program has taught these farmers a better way to maintain a resilient food supply for their community. In interview after interview, farmers shared their disaster stories and the struggles they have faced to maintain their crops and villages, expressing gratitude for the new program and the hope it offers.
As we pack our production gear and travel back down the dirt road that leads off the mountain, I am left with a different perception of the developing world than when I left New Jersey. Even with all the stories of disaster and challenges, there is one impression etched in my mind: There was never a moment where the heartfelt people of Malawi appeared to let either their lack of resources or how many struggles they have faced phase their positive outlook on life. They seem to live day by day with huge smiles on their faces, joyful for life itself.
Montclair State | New Jersey