April has been a month full of changes here in Malawi. After the death of President Bingu over the Easter weekend, the country has spent the rest of the month mourning their beloved leader.
His body was flown back to Malawi from South Africa the third week in April, which kicked off his goodbye tour. It started with speeches and songs blasted over a loudspeaker out of the state house for 3 full days, 24 hours a day. Have I ever mentioned that the permaculture centre is located right next door to the state house?
Next he was flown to different regions of the country, so all could view his body and mourn their fallen leader. Last Monday was a national holiday in honor of the official funeral, which was held in Bingu’s home district. At the permaculture centre we commemorated his life by making omelets and banana pancakes and I built a bed of lemongrass and mint outside my new house.
Which brings me to more changes in Malawi…
The national government isn’t the only one that’s undergone a change in leadership this past month. Here at the permaculture centre we said goodbye to Alex, the deputy director, and will be saying goodbye to Olly, the managing director, next week. Their replacements are arriving this coming week and will be overlapping with Olly for a total of one and three days, respectively.
In addition to these staffing changes, the Institute is starting to see some real traction in the success of its project proposals and has become, for the first time in its two-year history, financially viable. Last month it secured a grant for an agroforesrty project that will keep the organization afloat for at least the next two years. There are also a handful of other promising proposals in the works that all take varied approaches to diversifying agriculture in Malawi using permaculture techniques.
With this overall growth, there are resources available for an additional management level position and the need to maintain some organizational continuity over the coming months of staffing changes. Alex and Olly therefore offered me a program associate position in the hopes of enticing me to stay on with the organization through the end of the year.
Their plan worked and I accepted the new position. I will be keeping my current role managing the commercial garden, giving me the opportunity to continue working outside, increasing my knowledge of permaculture practices and principles, and working with the gardeners on improving garden production (blog post on this to follow!). In addition, I will take on a larger role in the overall organizational management, which, thus far, has included active involvement in project design and proposal writing as well as taking over responsibility of our volunteer and intern programs. With the new management team coming in, I hope that my role might also expand to include project implementation and management.
The perks of this expanded role are not confined to experience and skills, I also get a sweet new pad! Two weeks ago I moved into one of the stand-alone houses at the Centre. While I did enjoy living in the converted stables, the privacy, amount of interior daylight, and cement floors of my current hut is a definite improvement. Plus if I ever get lonely living a whopping 200 meters from the rest of the interns, I have a monitor lizard that lives in the bushes around my house to hang out with.
Although I had not initially wanted to stay in Malawi for longer than 6 months, this new opportunity was too good to pass up. I have been so happy here over the past four months and I truly believe in this organization and its development/agricultural philosophy. During this period of transition, I’m excited to stay on to see what direction the organization takes and to be a part of the change.