Sunday, November 16, 2008

Moving Around

So I have been very movious as of late.

(still not sure if its a real word, but people here use it often - and I guess that makes it real.  A movious person is a person who moves around a lot)

All the EWB volunteers in Southern Africa met in Dedza, Malawi.

There are 8 new volunteers since I arrived, so all of a sudden I'm not the new guy on the block.  Not sure how I feel about it since it still feels like I am just settling in and as I look ahead to how much I want to get done in the next 5 months, I realize I have to start working more efficiently.

Nothing too dramatic to report at the moment, I hope to have a post in 1 week about my new living situation.

My trip to Malawi

When you get on a bus here, the bus driver will tell you "we leave at 06 hours", but what he really means is the earlies we'll leave is 06 hours.  In fact, what happens is the bus doesn't leave until its full.  Needless to say, after spending the night watching the american elections with some other volunteers we got to spend 3 hours waiting to actually start our 15 hour journey to Malawi.  Luckily, fellow EWB'r - Ashley Raeside, had her handy mp3 player which also has a radio.  So I sat and listened to history in the making, as John McCain gave his concession speach and new president elect, Mr. Barrack Obama gave his speach, I sat on this bus and felt my skin tingle .... as if maybe there is hope, maybe we can make things better, and maybe the government of the United States will take actions that will actualy lead to peace in the world.  

(Not two weeks later I found out Zambia is heading for a serious recession as it closes down its copper mines because of the global recession and falling copper prices)

My view from the bus as I listened to history in the making.

In Eastern Zambia, cotton is the major cash crop.   

I could speak for hours on the complexity of how a business can be good or bad for the small-holder farmers of Zambia, but instead, I'll just say that a company like Dunavant has a lot of potential to do good, yet, because of the lack of competition and transparency, I have to say that Zambia would probably be a lot better off without this particular company.

A very nice town in Eastern Zambia, Chipata

Yes, Obama is popular here.

On my way back to Mwinilunga, I am spending a few days working in Lusaka, which is nice.  Imagine a place where you can just go buy cheese and icecream!  Better fill up on the good stuff since I know it'll be a long time before I see those goodies again.

The guys in front of yet another truck that has been overhauled.

Turns out, transportation is by far our biggest cost at Forest Fruits.  Its becoming painfully obvious as we try to buy honey and the trucks are all down.  Meanwhile the competition is 'stealing' our honey from our beekeepers.  Oh ya, and this isn't just regular competion, this competition is funded by donors from Europe.   Of course the donors dont really know what there money is being used for, and therefore have no idea of the affect this is having on the ground.  The survival of the company is in jeopardy.  Some might say this is no big deal, as long as the farmers are able to keep selling their honey...isn't that whats important?  YES.  But what happens when the donor money stops, lets just say, hypothetically, there is a global recession and all of a sudden this particular donor decides not to fund 'rural empowerment' in Zambia, then the farmers cant sell their honey because they caused Forest Fruits to go out of business.  Now imagine, hypothetically, that the donors didnt bother in the first place, voila, Forest Fruits is still functioning and the farmers can still sell their honey.

Its not quite so cut and dry, but this is really happenning, and peoples livelihoods really are at stake.