What speed they operate with. Last Monday we sowed sugar snap peas with the class after a lecture on legumes. We covered some of the new seed row with sticks against birds, but I had not counted on these industrious detrivores. Wednesday everything looked fine. Thursday the sticks were hardly detectable - covered in ant-casts. I hope they haven’t eaten the peas too. These guys do double the amount worms do (although there are worms here too) with a side kick: if you don’t eat them, they will eat your house, trees, compost your heap, anything dead - and if that's not available start on diseased or weak.
A lesson on erosion
Last week we made a swale after a lesson on ‘Erosion’. A swale is a type of draining ditch on a contour to stop sheet erosion and catch water runoff, storing it in the ground (as ground water). The resulting bank we planted with Comfrey; for leaf fertiliser/compost, elephant grass for fodder and vetiver. This method I was shown at a permaculture day course here in Lilongwe at Natures Gift; a one year old demonstration garden and training centre in permaculture. They take volunteers, so my aim is now to introduce some of my students. Tomorrow I am sponsoring the agriculture teacher to come with me on the follow on course, so he also has a connection for his students.
After we finished our Swale, which involved a lot of hard digging through rough grassy sods, their teacher gets them to build small fire with off cuts from the carpentry class and roast some home grown maize. I am vaguely starting to feel like a local: this is my third day eating maize!
So far I have given lessons in leaf vegetable growing, legumes, water and soil conservation, milk products, lawns, roses, ornamental gardening and plant identification, I am hoping to organise an excursion to a nursery next week.
Hotel Management class
The ‘Hotel Management class’ I have given a cooking lesson using local produce: things like ‘guacamole’ and ‘salsa’ with potato wedges. Their teacher suggests house keeping next as there are no funds left for ingredients, but when I ask him what he is teaching them that day, he says: “dry cleaning”.
They do like wearing suits here ( and even jerseys on a hot day), suits while working in the field, while dancing, while pouring concrete: they take pride in their appearance, it is a sign of respect, they make a real effort, but underneath their clothes are repaired and patched. Manners, politeness, respect, hard-working and smiling regardless of adversity these are a deserving people, they do try and help themselves and kin.
Cost a barrier to education
I was talking to the Electrical Mechanics teacher of the vocational centre. His concern was for his pupils. A few of which may find jobs, but the majority will have to set up as self-employed. However they can not afford to buy the tools. I suggested micro-finance, but this is only for women.
The only two girls on the course had to drop out because their families couldn’t afford the the second terms fees (14000kw; less than 60 pounds a term) The teacher himself already supports an extended family. Like most with a job, they take on their families or neighbours children when they die and share what they can afford.
Find out more about SOS Children's work in Malawi
Although SOS Children doesn't take overseas volunteers, it is sometimes possible to visit the Children's Village where your sponsored child lives.