Tuesday, September 6, 2016

'Never-ending Escom/Waterboard supply woes' blog from 2015



From flying monkeys sabotaging Malawi’s valued but quite expensive electricity supply to opposition members or vandals somehow removing transformers for “chiwaya cooking oil” or “switching off” to sabotage ruling parties and weeds and silt terrorizing the Shire River, Malawians have heard it all…why many unplanned Escom blackouts have been happening over the years.

Heads of state have not been spared with electricity power failing when they addressed visiting Presidents making some ruling party officials suspect opposition leaders of sabotage in the absence of a working generator.

Even animals have been blamed with a monkey being accused of causing a serious black-out in the past. The monkey was again blamed last year when Escom announced it had encroached into Nkula A power station switch yard and “caused a short circuit” on a power line leading to massive power cuts.

This is not forgetting the low water level stories and the 2002 floating water weed which threatened to “choke the Shire river” which happened to be a major source of hydro-electric power.

The public relations department was kept busy taking journalists on a tour of affected areas to capture photos of the weeds on the river negatively affecting electricity generation during the rainy season.

The public was not spared and deforestation was said to be a contributing factor, and not forgetting that during most Escom blackout city dwellers rely on charcoal or firewood to cook creating a vicious and dangerous cycle.

One thing is very clear in our country…..blackouts have become the order of the day and the sound of generators the norm in some companies. Ironically not many environmental problems were reported before the 1990s and yes South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia and other African countries have also recently been experiencing the dreaded load shedding.

But the fact remains that it is 51 years of Independence and the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi Limited (Escom) is struggling to be heading towards power every day with a lot of excuses.

Some consumers on Facebook and Twitter have gone as far as nicknaming Escom the “Entertainer of the Year”.

The same can be said of various waterboards throughout the country with many Malawian women spotted in the cities balancing buckets on their heads hunting for water during periods when taps run dry.

Some of those living near dirty streams find an opportunity to make quick money by charging for city residents to use the water…..this is despite the fact that Malawi has rivers, streams and a lake.

So what exactly is the problem or the root of the problem one might ask? Is it only population growth and outdated equipment? Are forces of nature, human error or negligence by the public the real reasons consumers fail to access good services from Escom and Waterboards?
Does anyone have an answer that won't change next year?
Water is life
Blantyre Water Board (BWB) customers include domestic, industrial, institutional and commercial ones and there are an estimated 40,000 according to information on their website.  http://www.bwb.mw/

Yet out of those places like Chilobwe and Soche East don’t always have daily water supply and other places like BCA can stay for weeks without seeing a drop of water.

The same can be said of some out of town places like Bvumbwe in Thyolo were many can stay for weeks without water including in far away places as Mulanje….but the high bills continue being delivered.

It’s ironic that Mulanje with Mulanje Mountain nearby with plenty of water flowing down it can have residents without easy access to clean water. How long will the story-telling go on for…should people stop bathing or drinking water to prove a point that water is life and a necessity?


But Dziwe la Nkhalamba is a sacred pool despite what foreigners say but water can be used from Mt Mulanje


It’s also strange how countries which have less water are able to use it effectively.  In 1968 when former Malawi President Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda addressed the Knesset in Israel he observed how they had a “desert with rocks all over” which they removed and “brought soil from far away and created fertile fields to grow many different crops.”

Israel was hardly 8000 square miles with a population of just over 2 million while Malawi was about 35,000 square miles of which 9000 was water…how are we using that water?!  Where did the flood water go...into the Indian Ocean and no rain or water harvesting?

Holland is said to be 41,500 km of which 7,700 is water but they are known to be good at water management.  Can’t Malawi borrow a leaf and apply it to some parts of Malawi prone to floods during some rain seasons whilst tackling deforestation and soil erosion?

Malawi needs to get organized since we have a lot of untreated water and make sure city residents and those living in villages get their money’s worth by ensuring a constant supply of clean water and providing it during shortages to prevent people from drinking and using dirty and unhygienic water.

Muddy water coming out of taps or seeing things floating in the water or delaying to use chlorine is wrong and an eyesore for those who pay for that water.

We need to apply what we learn from other nations after so many "familiarization tours" since the 1990s.  How many times will we be visiting Israel to learn more about irrigation?  Didn't we know that in 1968?

Electricity is not a luxury
If one checks Escom’s website they will notice a load-shedding schedule for today, Sunday, the 13th of September but they should not be surprised if the public utility does not stick to its schedule and catch people unawares. http://www.escom.mw/South/South%207-13%20September%202015.htm

Escom says its mandate is to “generate, transmit and distribute electricity in the country” and become a preferred “world class provider of reliable and sustainable electricity to the nation and in the region.”

We appeal to Escom to reduce the number of blackouts in the country and hope they will expand to cater for an increased population which seems to be still growing.

We don’t want to be reminded of the time US preacher and speaker Joyce Meyer visited Malawi and explained how her jet could not land at Chileka Airport because “the runway lights were not working” and then they had to fly to Lilongwe and after being booked in “a nice hotel…the lights went out” as soon as she entered the room and she had to find her way around using a candle using her own words.

Continuous blackouts are denting Malawi’s image and could scare away some potential investors bearing in mind not all of our rural areas are lit up!  So maybe it’s time to wake up…..’Dzuka Malawi’ as Francis Kalawe sings in his popular online song.

'Never-ending Escom/Waterboard supply woes' blog from 2015



From flying monkeys sabotaging Malawi’s valued but quite expensive electricity supply to opposition members or vandals somehow removing transformers for “chiwaya cooking oil” or “switching off” to sabotage ruling parties and weeds and silt terrorizing the Shire River, Malawians have heard it all…why many unplanned Escom blackouts have been happening over the years.

Heads of state have not been spared with electricity power failing when they addressed visiting Presidents making some ruling party officials suspect opposition leaders of sabotage in the absence of a working generator.

Even animals have been blamed with a monkey being accused of causing a serious black-out in the past. The monkey was again blamed last year when Escom announced it had encroached into Nkula A power station switch yard and “caused a short circuit” on a power line leading to massive power cuts.

This is not forgetting the low water level stories and the 2002 floating water weed which threatened to “choke the Shire river” which happened to be a major source of hydro-electric power.

The public relations department was kept busy taking journalists on a tour of affected areas to capture photos of the weeds on the river negatively affecting electricity generation during the rainy season.

The public was not spared and deforestation was said to be a contributing factor, and not forgetting that during most Escom blackout city dwellers rely on charcoal or firewood to cook creating a vicious and dangerous cycle.

One thing is very clear in our country…..blackouts have become the order of the day and the sound of generators the norm in some companies. Ironically not many environmental problems were reported before the 1990s and yes South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia and other African countries have also recently been experiencing the dreaded load shedding.

But the fact remains that it is 51 years of Independence and the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi Limited (Escom) is struggling to be heading towards power every day with a lot of excuses.

Some consumers on Facebook and Twitter have gone as far as nicknaming Escom the “Entertainer of the Year”.

The same can be said of various waterboards throughout the country with many Malawian women spotted in the cities balancing buckets on their heads hunting for water during periods when taps run dry.

Some of those living near dirty streams find an opportunity to make quick money by charging for city residents to use the water…..this is despite the fact that Malawi has rivers, streams and a lake.

So what exactly is the problem or the root of the problem one might ask? Is it only population growth and outdated equipment? Are forces of nature, human error or negligence by the public the real reasons consumers fail to access good services from Escom and Waterboards?
Does anyone have an answer that won't change next year?
Water is life
Blantyre Water Board (BWB) customers include domestic, industrial, institutional and commercial ones and there are an estimated 40,000 according to information on their website.  http://www.bwb.mw/

Yet out of those places like Chilobwe and Soche East don’t always have daily water supply and other places like BCA can stay for weeks without seeing a drop of water.

The same can be said of some out of town places like Bvumbwe in Thyolo were many can stay for weeks without water including in far away places as Mulanje….but the high bills continue being delivered.

It’s ironic that Mulanje with Mulanje Mountain nearby with plenty of water flowing down it can have residents without easy access to clean water. How long will the story-telling go on for…should people stop bathing or drinking water to prove a point that water is life and a necessity?

But Dziwe la Nkhalamba is a sacred pool despite what foreigners say but water can be used from Mt Mulanje


It’s also strange how countries which have less water are able to use it effectively.  In 1968 when former Malawi President Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda addressed the Knesset in Israel he observed how they had a “desert with rocks all over” which they removed and “brought soil from far away and created fertile fields to grow many different crops.”

Israel was hardly 8000 square miles with a population of just over 2 million while Malawi was about 35,000 square miles of which 9000 was water…how are we using that water?!  Where did the flood water go...into the Indian Ocean and no rain or water harvesting?

Holland is said to be 41,500 km of which 7,700 is water but they are known to be good at water management.  Can’t Malawi borrow a leaf and apply it to some parts of Malawi prone to floods during some rain seasons whilst tackling deforestation and soil erosion?

Malawi needs to get organized since we have a lot of untreated water and make sure city residents and those living in villages get their money’s worth by ensuring a constant supply of clean water and providing it during shortages to prevent people from drinking and using dirty and unhygienic water.

Muddy water coming out of taps or seeing things floating in the water or delaying to use chlorine is wrong and an eyesore for those who pay for that water.

We need to apply what we learn from other nations after so many "familiarization tours" since the 1990s.  How many times will we be visiting Israel to learn more about irrigation?  Didn't we know that in 1968?

Electricity is not a luxury
If one checks Escom’s website they will notice a load-shedding schedule for today, Sunday, the 13th of September but they should not be surprised if the public utility does not stick to its schedule and catch people unawares. http://www.escom.mw/South/South%207-13%20September%202015.htm

Escom says its mandate is to “generate, transmit and distribute electricity in the country” and become a preferred “world class provider of reliable and sustainable electricity to the nation and in the region.”

We appeal to Escom to reduce the number of blackouts in the country and hope they will expand to cater for an increased population which seems to be still growing.

We don’t want to be reminded of the time US preacher and speaker Joyce Meyer visited Malawi and explained how her jet could not land at Chileka Airport because “the runway lights were not working” and then they had to fly to Lilongwe and after being booked in “a nice hotel…the lights went out” as soon as she entered the room and she had to find her way around using a candle using her own words.

Continuous blackouts are denting Malawi’s image and could scare away some potential investors bearing in mind not all of our rural areas are lit up!  So maybe it’s time to wake up…..’Dzuka Malawi’ as Francis Kalawe sings in his popular online song.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Crop diversification for Zero Hunger (first published in Malawi's Nation newspaper on Aug 1, 2016)

Anaphiri and Kalulu in their village - Photo by Agnes Mizere
In Juma locality in Mulanje, Anaphiri is a revered elderly person like any other.  

The villagers scarcely call her by the first name -and some have christened her Anachanza.

The aged woman was sitting outside her humble home, shaking her head, deep in thought.  She was admittedly puzzled by effects of low maize yield as prolonged dry spells scorched most crop fields across the country.

Anaphiri has seen it all - the devastating famines of 1949, 2002 and last year.

"We will perish.  As was the case before independence in 1964, we will have nothing to chew," she sighed.

This echoes the cry of millions of Malawians as 40 in 100 will need emergency food assistance to survive.  Dwindling harvests have become common as rural farmers in Mulanje wait for reliable rains their ancestors once associated with hot winds.

This year, almost 6.4 million Malawians have been hit hard by the worsening food shortages caused by a severe drought.  To her, chronic food shortage confirms Malawians cannot survive on maize alone.  Not anymore!

Even youthful McDonald Kalulu knows this is not the first or last time Malawians are facing a food crisis.

Zero hunger by 2030

According to the World Food Programme (WFP), El-Nino has caused the worst drought in 35 years in Southern Africa.

“Malawi is one of the countries worst affected by El-Nino-related drought.  Its food security crisis is not only due to this year’s unprecedented drought but to the impact of severe flooding and prolonged dry spells last year,” the United Nations (UN) food agency reports.

The wrath of El-Nino threatens strides towards zero hunger by 2030, one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) world leaders adopted last year.


Last year I saw  Mulanje village maize mills destroyed by floods
Interestingly, empowered women, such as Victoria Msowoya of Karonga, are playing a greater role to rally their communities to stop relying on just maize to curb malnutrition and other food-related crises.

Through Homes Nutrition community-based organisation, Msowoya is living by example by promoting the growing drought-resistant crops such as cassava and sorghum.

She is more into preparation, preservation and actually growing the food for both home use and sale. Her emphasis is on value-addition.

 “It doesn't make sense to be malnourished when we can have plenty of food.  I want to invest in cassava flour. I did not know it was as good as wheat flour,” she says. 
Internet Cassava photo

Karonga citizens and their neighbours along Lake Malawi often soak, dry and pound cassava into flour for making nsima called kondowole.

Others grind unsoaked tubers into fine flour which they mix with wheat flour for making fritters and baking scones that are said to be more profitable to the traders and tastier and more nutritous to the consumers.

Msowoya also grows mapira (sorghum), which is becoming common in Chitipa.  Her role in crop diversification was under discussion when five journalists invited by the US Mission to the United Nations Agencies in Rome, Italy met with specialists from WFP and the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

WFP’s Food Systems Coordinator and Deputy Director for Policy and Programme Division, Steven Were Omamo says cassava and sorghum are essential to ending hunger.

“Crop diversification is a critical component of the growth of agricultural productivity and broader rural and economy-wide transformation,” he says.

According to him, cassava is worth scaling up because it is resilient to different geographical and weather conditions – notwithstanding the demand and multiple uses.
Saw a lot of sorghum (mapira) in Mulanje

Cassava is also used as a food sweetener, fuel, feed and fabric. 

He reckons value-addition is necessary to overcome its perishable nature and increase profits for rural farmers and entrepreneurs.

“Nevertheless, crop diversification is critical to food security at both household and national levels,” he says.

Relief operation

As hunger worsens, WFP is using food-for-work and cash-for-work initiatives as a short-term strategy for providing food assistance and ensuring progress in agriculture.

Water storage, soil management and planting more trees are also vital as poor farmers are hit hard by climate change, breaching soil fertility and land shortage.

The WFP initiative involves community members in conservation activities, reforestation, sustainable land management, small-scale irrigation, road construction and maintenance, income generation and livelihood diversification.

The locals prioritize their problems and identify solutions for them.

Omo explained:  “The community implements watershed activities using its own labour and management, with external support and trainings where necessary.

“This promotes community awareness and ownership of environmental rehabilitation, which is good for maintenance and sustainability.  Investments such as these are critical for communities to cope with the impacts of climate change.

WFP_Africa (@WFP_Africa) | Twitter 

Meanwhile, WFP has embarked on one of the largest emergency food distribution operation in the country as nearly 40 in 100 Malawians may require emergency assistance in coming months.

Nearly 80 percent of the hit population are smallholder farmers, the UN agency estimates.

“This is a dire situation, one that the world needs to take notice of right now before it’s too late”, said WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin in an interview during a three-day tour alongside US second lady Dr Jill Biden.

Cousin spoke with rural women who confessed having just enough food for a few more weeks before they start starving.

“We must urgently assist the people of Malawi and those affected by the drought in neighbouring countries, before food insecurity spirals into hunger and starvation.”

Biden, whose tour highlighted the gravity of the food shortage, announced that the US has donated $20 million (about K14 billion) through WFP to support the worst hit communities.



Feel free to like the Home Industries in Karonga Facebook page https://web.facebook.com/Homes-Industries-1519652165011108/?fref=ts



Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Avoiding Sun Rays to reach Dziwe la Nkhalamba (pool for the elderly) on Mulanje Mountain

It was a very hot day a few months ago when I decided to hire a taxi from Limbe bus depot which is actually matola transport to travel to Phalombe at a discount rate since I lost my cars many years ago and have never had enough money to buy another one.

I was determined to get to Phalombe to meet an elderly nyanga healer as one dealing in charms so that I could ask for permission to take a photo of his nsupa magical gourd made from mphonda losadibwe to mean a kind of squash which is not eaten.
“The calabash, bottle gourd, or white-flowered gourd, Lagenaria siceraria (synonym Lagenaria vulgaris Ser.), also known as opo squash (from Tagalogupo) or long melon, is a vine grown for its fruit, which can either be harvested young and used as a vegetable, or harvested mature, dried, and used as a bottle, utensil, or pipe,” partly read https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calabash 
However on my way to Phalombe I could not help but stare at the beauty of majestic Mount Mulanje and the water flowing down from it and the sight of some young men beckoning us to climb up to Dziwe la Nkhalamba (pool for the elderly) within an hour was too hard to resist so I told the car to stop.
Armed with a heavy handbag and wearing sandals I decided we should trek up to Dziwe la Nkhalamba as I badly needed my own photos although all I had was my phone camera which wasn’t of good quality.
I was also tempted to drink clean looking water coming out of a rock but luckily I did not and focused on walking up.  
Despite that I ignored the heat and armed with a cedar chain with the words SAPITWA and Mulanje Mountain written on it we started our climb up and within 10 minutes I was sweating heavily as it was very hot.
As sweat covered my face and body I decided to rest for some 5 minutes half way through while I continued taking as many photos as possible.
The sun was so hot that I kept seeing rainbow colours or prism like things in the lens and when I asked the guide to take my photo the same effect was seen but not when he captured the mountain from another angle.  
It was under an hour when I saw water roar past me as we climbed up and I had to make sure I balanced myself as my sandals were lose and got one of the gentlemen to carry my heavy blue handbag. 
We climbed up and up and I felt as if I was doing push-ups and felt every muscle in my stomach react which made me feel good. 
By the time we start descending somewhere on top I saw the Dziwe la Nkhalamba waterfall in a distance and screamed with delight as I could hear the roar of water.
It was breathtaking and out of this world when we finally reached the pool and all I could do was take photos but I feared standing on the rocks as I imagined myself falling into the water yet I cannot swim despite many years of lessons….I fear deep water and imagine a hand pulling me in. 
After getting the guide and taxi driver to take some closer photos for me it was time to call it a day as the sun was beginning to set and we had to track back down.
On the way back I saw some men with cedar tree logs which they probably cut down illegally from the mountain but I pretended not to notice that much because I did not know what they were capable of doing. 
As we walked down I could feel my feet getting out of my sandals and the rocks scrapping them but I did not care as my mission to FINALLY SEE Dziwe la Nkhalamba had been accomplished and I felt so good to feel any pain.
Although I spent money though I’m self-employed to get someone to drive me to the place I felt it was worth it and next time I want to conquer the physical Sapitwa where many tourists go before attempting to see if I can be “kidnapped” into the mythical kingdom one and be able to come out after taking photos…..only time will tell indeed! 

Took this picture of children in Milange, Mozambique admiring visiting Malawian children

Tracing footsteps to lead me home

Greetings from the Warm Heart Africa, Malawi.

I'm a Malawian journalist who grew up in many countries including South Africa, Belgium, then West Germany, UK, Washington DC and New York in the US and I love New York.

Trying to come up with the production of my life and by compiling some of my 1000 poems into a book called ‘Tracing Footsteps’ to lead me Home with excellent photography.

I also plan to film award winning documentaries based on the history of this ancient land called Malawi and the mysteries of Sapitwa and the Sirius star.

.....watch this space.


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