We arrived in Salima to find the accommodation good and the people friendly. The food seems to take a while to come after ordering but this is part of the famous ‘Africa time’ which we are still getting used to, after all the local slogan is “no hurry, no worry”. The lodge we are staying at is well appointed with an outdoor sitting area.

On Sunday we spent the day at Lake Malawi and swam in it for the first time. It’s hard to think of it as a lake as it’s more like the coast with tides, sandy beaches and no real visible signs of land on the other side. We relaxed and prepared ourselves for the following week knowing it was to be full of meeting new people and learning new things.

Monday morning and Zondi collected us at the typical 8:30am that we had become so used to in Lilongwe. We travelled to the Environment Africa (EA) office in town and met Mirrias, the other field officer. With a morning of orientation into EA and its work in the area through the SEED (Salima and Environmental and Economic Development) programme, we were more aware of our purpose here. The next two to three days were spent meeting stakeholders and beneficiaries in the area. This included the District Commissioner, the head of the police (a rather scary individual and a man who certainly has presence) the Extension Planning Area office and another local NGO working in the Lake Malawi basin.

Wednesday we attended two meetings. The first was with the Committee, a group of people from the area who were chosen to represent all of the local people and villages. The second was with a group of individual households from the villages who have been helped by the SEED project. Although this was predominantly done in Chichewa with little translation, the meetings were documented by our Monitoring and Evaluation team member and then understood by the group at a later date. With each intervention a beneficiary stood up and addressed the group with information about how the programme had influenced and empowered them. Here we noted some potential people to interview to include in our success stories at a later date.

Thursday we leant how to harvest sorghum at the village of Kasonda. Sorghum is a drought resistant crop which can be made into flour and Nsima [a local food]. With members of the community we learnt about all stages and processes of sorghum harvesting, from picking to threshing and spinning. Friday we went to Mankhwazi village where we learnt the techniques to harvest sweet potato and met and briefly interviewed one woman who had made enough money with the help of SEED and her sweet potato fields to buy and build her own house. We have had the afternoon to use as documentation time and consolidate the information of the last week.

We’re all looking forward to the next week of activities which consists of some training in sweet potato preservation, baking and packaging sorghum products and cassava harvesting and preservation.

Kayleigh Brown is a Progressio Empower volunteer in Malawi.