When I was eight years old, our geography teacher, Mr. Smith, drew three “stick men” on the board representing the children of the world. He went on to say we were the lucky ones, represented by the first child. The other two were hungry – and that did not mean they were as hungry as we were just before lunchtime, but there simply was no food or not enough food to go around. That image is engrained in my memory to this day. I remember the time of day, where I was seated in the classroom and what we subsequently ate for lunch. The image has never faded. The good news is that the proportion of the world’s children living in poverty, often with severe food insecurity, is closer to one in three. However, in Malawi that proportion remains at two in three. Last year, I had the opportunity to travel to Malawi to see firsthand the work of Yamba Malawi, a New York-based charity that empowers communities to break the cycle of poverty.
Malawi is a beautiful country that has been at peace since World War II. However, its main export crop is tobacco, for which demand is in decline. The population has increased significantly as refugees have arrived from the (now settled) war in neighboring Mozambique. Climate change, whatever the cause, has impacted the maize crop which is the major subsistence crop for most families. Furthermore, Malawi is burdened by dollar denominated debt yet the government’s revenues are overwhelmingly denominated in local currency.
Against this background, Yamba Malawi has been providing sustainable aid helping development of community-based businesses. These include chicken farms, bee-keeping and other ventures. They also provide educational scholarships so that children can attend high school (which is not paid for by the government). For me, the trip was at times emotionally challenging even though I have seen deep poverty before when I lived in in Asia. On the other hand, the work of Yamba Malawi is opening new opportunities for communities. I feel privileged to have visited Malawi with Yamba Malawi. I am also very grateful that many from our team at MarketFactory support Yamba Malawi’s annual “Gala for Good” in New York, which I am a committee member.