Every year in Malawi has deepened our understanding to the very desperate need that villagers and even city people face. It's rampant in small doses where we are, based on health issues, extended family borrowing for business opportunities, or a lack of capital during the growing season or an issue with the weather. Of course, we're talking about food.
The Hunger Season, as it is called, usually lasts from December to March when people run out of their last sack of maize flour and have to buy from their neighbors. ...Who have also run out, and the prices at market are far too expensive for subsistence farmers. During this time people supplement their meals with mangoes for as long as they lasts, then it's Cassava or wait it out until harvest. This year the rainy season was so incredibly sparse save the small cyclone that hit for a couple of days that all the seed sown at the first rain either died, or was so stunted the stalks were half sized with little to no yield. It's times like these you realize why eating dried mice on a stick and roasting termites and flying ants for food is so popular here.
Of course, none of this is a problem if you have money and can afford the price hike in food.
In our case...
You happen upon a merciful organization such as Feed My Starving Children
Plastic packages of mixed rice, dried soy, and vegetables fortified with essential vitamins. Manna Packs, the Manna from America.
The first year we were here during hunger season, we grew and bought maize then had it milled into ufa (maize flour) because that's what everyone uses to make the largest portion of their meals, nsima. Unlike potatoes, or rice, or pasta, it's corn. It's mostly nutritionless, and feels like a lump in your stomach. This is what makes all of Malawi feel like they are full when their food does not cut it. It takes literal hours to cook, over firewood or illegal charcoal, and at the end you don't get so much as a heavy lump of soggy styrofoam. We learned our lesson.
Nsima has been a consistent staple in Malawi well before Great Britain colonized the place. But before the Portuguese slave trades came here in the 1600's the crop used was sorghum. The Portuguese introduced maize...and here we are. With tasteless, nutritionless lumps in starvation bloated bellies. And realizing this was not the way to go, we scratched our heads and decided to grow sorghum in our field.
Manna Packs came to us through our friend, Wendy, who used her church as emergency shelter during Cyclone Idea and received several boxes to feed the people who'd lost everything. Wendy gave us several boxes to share. Our translator, Khwale, then emailed the organization to try and see what they were all about, and their director showed up at our door while he was out one day. A conversation was struck up, and today Feed My Starving Children has saved hundreds of families and little school children in our area alone through using us as distributors.
Here is an example...
Promise and Answer, the name of twin baby boys whose mother walked four miles carrying them two weeks after they were born to ask for assistance feeding her family. A single Manna Pack has six one cup servings, and their very Malawian style family had four older children, two teenagers, and then the twins came along. While there is safety in numbers, as well as many hands to make light work for gardening and harvest, every one is hungry. Alise and Khwale walked to their home for a follow up and food delivery later that month and to play with the tiny babies. They are strong little three year olds now, enough to make their hardworking mother tired.
Today Manna Packs also feed a weekend school of one hundred children at Khwale's home church, as well as many families in our home village and the villages surrounding during these hard times. It is manna from Heaven. The love of God in the hearts of those sacrificing their time and money to bring food to starving children. Nutrition to help young hearts and minds grow.