February 23, 2016
To call a day such as today topsy tervy seems like a huge understatement. Let me try to explain. I started off in Lilongwe on the back of a one-speed bicycle. I was perched on the carrying rack with a chain saw in my hands as a heroic 120 pound young man wove his way up, down, around and through the potholes, pedestrians, vehicles, hills, gullies. I was on the way to the hospital as my crown popped out again. The chain saw was on its way to the repair shop as trips to the city are always multi-purpose. All was going well until the saw was declared beyond repair. But, in the midst of that bad news, we discovered that the shop had a sideline supplying seedlings. The fellow who owns the shop also runs a tree farm (250 hectares if that means something to you). He has planted the whole thing in bamboo. In one year (12 months) the bamboo reaches ten inch diameters in multiple shoots and in five years supplies a sustainable amount of wood to burn and/or sell. The multiple stems grow to 75 feet and have walls two inches thick around the hollow interior. I think this may be an answer to all the pressure on the forests here. If anyone says they have THE ANSWER, run like hell. There may be problems introducing a “foreign” plant that likes to take over (just think invasive plants!) but, if each household had their own plot devoted to bamboo, this could work. So, this is an appeal to anyone interested in helping me buy seedlings. They cost $2.25 each and stand four feet tall with four to eight stems. I would like to put about 300 in the three villages here and let them share and hope the pressure on the forest is reduced. And, the pressure on the ladies’ necks as their firewood would be at their doorstep.
So, we came home exulting that we could really change something fundamental in the way people live. We ran headlong into the tragic news that one of my students had just died. Myesero was a wonderful young woman just starting to become herself with confidence, intelligence, determination and a great sense of humor. She was 13 and had missed two classes (very unusual) so I asked after her and was told she was sick. She worked hard in class, planted trees with us in the rain, and, when I presented her with a soccer ball for all her help, she took it to school and gave it to a teacher. She was a “keepah” for sure and I miss her a lot. That is some sad news from Malawi.
P.S. If you would like to contribute to the Bamboo Fund, simply write Janet Littlefield, Go Malawi!, PO BOX 108, Hebron, Maine 04238
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