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Winter 2010 ADRA Works

Life is easier in this community,” says Luka Khuliwa, community chairman. “We are learning that every small change makes life easier.” Malawi is a country where families grow their own food using simple hand tools. Driving through the south of the country, you will not see tractors or even oxen-pulled ploughs working the fields. All work is done by hand, and mostly by women. Maize is the food of choice. Without maize at a meal, most individuals feel that they have not eaten. While ADRA agricultural projects in the country encourage the growing of tomatoes, cassava, pigeon peas, soybeans, and sweet potatoes, most everyone grows maize. Hand milling, or pounding the maize by hand, is an energy intensive and time-consuming daily activity. Done by women and girls, this keeps them from other needed activities. It even keeps girls from attending school. “There was a maize mill near our community; however, it was a long, long walk, and to go there meant you did nothing else that day,” states Irene. “Those who were lucky enough to have a bicycle could ride there with their maize in two hours. My family did not go often.”

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The Mphonde community is in the Phalombe district of Malawi. In this remote area along the Mozambique border, villagers struggle hard simply to exist. ADRA is working in partnership with the World Food Programme (WFP), distributing commodities and creating food assets here, including the building of large fishponds and poultry production. It was clear that building a maize mill in this community would further alleviate the extreme poverty. A community maize mill would not only free up individuals’ time, but it would also allow them to spend less funds on getting maize ground. It would create a small community industry with jobs, and it would provide a small stream of income for the community.

The community council identified a parcel of land along the dirt road and voted that this would be the property for the maize mill. With ADRA donating the building materials, the community built the mill building out of brick and concrete. ADRA donated the diesel-run machinery and trained three individuals on the operation and maintenance of the mill itself. The mill operator and his assistant are grateful for the income that working at the mill provides.

The mill is open five days a week, and the community has assigned each family a day and time to come to the mill each week. This scheduling means that no one has to wait in long lines, and everyone has a chance to have their maize ground into flour. “We usually see 25 people a day, and they come in groups of five,” says Bonwell, one of the mill operators. “By scheduling people in groups, I do not have to keep starting and stopping the mill. We save on diesel this way.”

The community pays the mill operators 2,000 kwacha (US$14) a month. After three years in operation, the community has 70,000 kwacha in the bank. “We are using the interest in the account to send the orphans in our community to school,” Luka Khuliwa proudly exclaims. “Without this money, they would not be able to receive an education. Thank you, ADRA, for helping us provide for every child!”

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