Tuesday, March 2, 2010

And now for something totally banal

Well, things haven't gotten any easier over here in Lilongwe, as you can probably tell from my conspicuous absence. I worked both Saturday and Sunday this week, and even though tomorrow is a public holiday - Martyr's Day (Or 'Marty's Day' as the HR announcement at work erroneously called it, brightening my day immensely. I feel like I should watch 'Back to the Future' tomorrow to celebrate) - you guessed it, I will be working again. Tonight was running, followed by choir. Tomorrow I'll cook breakfast for some friends, go to work, then there's a barbecue. Thursday is ladies night. Friday, I sleep.

But instead of whining again, I thought I would write about something totally mundane, but which seems to have been on a lot of people's minds lately - the weather. Yes, I have become that dull - when there is nothing else to say, one can always talk about the weather.

But seriously, though - the weather is a really big deal in a country like Malawi, where about 90% of the population relies on tiny little rain-fed farms for their food and income. Every year as December looms, the speculation on what sort of year it will be begins. People read much into the occasional sprinkles that occur in November (the "little rains"), trying to figure out whether the rains will fail. When the first real storm hits, everyone gets excited, no matter how old they are, how many rainy seasons they have seen.

This year has been a strange one for the weather, and everyone is a little worried about what that will mean come harvest-time. Until about 2 weeks ago, it hardly rained at all. Now it seems to do nothing but. The problem with this is that many people planted their maize back in December, only to have their crops die during the long dry spell. Those who can afford it replant. Those who can't will depend on the generosity of aid next year when their food stocks run out.

So far, it looks like we have avoided a full-scale crop failure. Still, I worry that there will be many homes with not enough food when the hungry season comes around next year. I hope that we have learned enough from the last two food crises in Malawi (8 years ago and 4 years ago) to be ready to help them.


Shannon said...

You can even make the weather sound interesting. Those of us lucky enough to live in the city and get most of our food from the grocery forget what it means to the subsistence farmer when the rains come at the wrong time.

Like the new blog makeover. Had to pause when i clicked to figure out which blog I had clicked on. Like the picture of the frangipani at the top. Do they grow in Malawi?

Border Jumpers said...

Just an FYI, wanted to share a blog we did today (please feel free to cross-post) about our travels in Lilongwe, Malawi. We blog everyday from all over Africa at a website call Border Jumpers (http://www.borderjumpers.org) and for the Worldwatch Institute's Nourishing the Planet (http://blogs.worldwatch.org/nourishingtheplanet/).

Here is the link: "1,000 Words About Malawi"

All OUR best, Bernard Pollack and Danielle Nierenberg

Gwyneth said...

Hey Shannon, thanks! Yes, frangipani (I call it plumeria) grows all over here. Around October, the trees are covered in blooms and the air is thick with their scent. It's really lovely and one of my favorite things here!

Shannon said...

YAY! I hope I have some in my yard, we will be arriving in Lilongwe in August. Torn between excited, nervous and scared out of my mind. LOL!

Suzanne said...


The weather is one of those things that is an old standby of conversation because it is so important for crops - or rather I've been used to talk like that my whole life... So, I think it is interesting ;)