The long road
26th September 2012:
This morning before 8, Harisen headed off with myself and a villager from Mzimba district into, for what was for me the great unknown. I was under the illusion that we were slipping up the road about 40km to see a new area to plan the installation of pumps.
After 40 miles we came to what might be known as the end of the road (as we know it) and then rattled another 64 miles on the most awful surface up, down and around until we finally arrived on a goat track to a remote village, 2 miles from the Zambian border in a kind of no man’s land between tobacco plantations, Government forests (two meter high hardwood) being chopped down by the acre per minute and then traditional land.
We stopped in a small village of 50 souls and looked out on acres of scorched and burned countryside and tried to eek out a spot for a well. They had an old well which did well for a while until a declining water table left them walking miles to a polluted stream. This well had no pump, it cost about £30 to get someone to dig years ago. BUT when it dried no one had the knowledge, money or courage to dig deeper. Difficult to fathom?
There are very few wells in this sparsely populated corner of our world and hopefully this group will begin digging a hole in the ground, maybe 8 or 9 metres deep, where we will stick in the simplest of pumps and pray that the neighbouring villages will follow suit.
I feel if the men can’t manage the effort, then the women will. They want a pump. The women fed us rice and a tomato relish and we rattled the four hour journey home in our twenty year old, ex Irish army jeep, pains all over but a really different experience.
Oh! this is the main road from Ekwendeni to Mzimba, two very important trading centres in Northern Malawi, along which we met buses and artics, carrying anything from Coca Cola to charcoal.