It was this beautiful sunset that was on the other side of Geoff’s lens. Did you guess correctly?
We spent Thursday with one of the Fish Conservation committees. Overfishing in Lake Malawi has become a real problem, and mosquito nets sent by foreign aid are regularly sewn together as illegal fishing nets, used to catch thousands of baby fish. With fish being the main source of protein for many Malawians, finding and maintaining sustainable fishing practices is essential to the country’s future. The committee explained how they have worked relentlessly to enforce new bylaws and educate local fishermen about the consequences of using illegal nets. They were happy to report that as a result, the fish now being caught in their area of the lake, were the biggest they’d seen in many years.
Proud members of the Fish Conservation Committee
Settling into the rhythm of life in Malawi, we were up at 5am for a sunrise swim in the lake (this may sound relaxing but with Geoff casually reminiscing about croc and hippo sightings, something as mundane as a floating twig can send imaginations running wild). Back on the relative safety of dry land, we hopped on bikes and spent the day visiting the local schools and nurseries that Ripple Africa support.
Phineas Financial Controller, Will, swatting up in the school library
In the Head Teacher’s office at Mwaya Primary School.
Emerging from the lake at sunrise
“Who are you?” – This girl at nursery isn’t sure about the visitors
Today we visited more nurseries, only this time, instead of being filled with children, they were filled with trees! Ripple Africa help local farmers and community groups get set up, by providing relevant tools and training, it’s then up to them to grow the seedlings and care for the trees as they grow into maturity. Whilst an element of patience is required to reap the benefits, the people we met were fully appreciative of this and through singing, dancing and even a short play, they expressed their feelings of empowerment and hope for the future.
The Nurseries are well cared for by their owners as mature trees can bring in an income.
Ellen, Will & Laurence with Farmers and their fruit tree nursery.
Making the most of our last day in Malawi, we were out early to find out what happens when seedlings leave the nursery. We visited an area of pine trees and were surprised to learn that the plants towering above us were only 2 – 4 years old! It takes 15 years to grow a tree large enough to sell for timber however, they can be coppiced for firewood much before then. We also visited a family who were growing mango trees. Fruit trees were typically hard to grow in Malawi however, Ripple Africa have developed improved fruit trees which yield a higher crop and are less prone to disease. In fact, they are of such good quality, that fruit from Ripple Africa’s trees is highly competitive at market.
Excited about the future – these trees will produce enough fruit to eat and sell.
Of course, we couldn’t leave Malawi without planting some trees ourselves! Our final job before we left was to plant out some tangerine trees, hopefully allowing them to grow into a sustainable source of food and income for local people. Under blazing hot sun, we dug holes and prepared the ground and compost, fully appreciating the work that many Malawians have committed to, to ensure a sustainable future.
Will, planting a tangerine seedling
Another carton of hangers has been sold, quick Laurence, plant a tree!
Ellen, preparing the ground for another seedling
Back in the UK
We’ve always been passionate about working with Ripple Africa, but seeing first-hand the tangible difference their projects make to those living in Malawi, has given us a new sense of responsibility and compassion. Sharing our experiences with the rest of the Phineas team has only reinforced how important it is to us as a business, that we actively support our planet and the people who live on it. We’ve pledged to plant one million trees, but we won’t be stopping there. It will be an amazing achievement but it’s not about the numbers. It’s about the people we met and the forests we visited, and our commitment to doing whatever we can to help give them a positive future.