How Poor are you?

How Poor are you?

On a morning when it seems that the whole economic fabric of the world is falling apart, I’m asking myself what it is to be poor. Over the past ten or fifteen years, incomes in Ireland have increased considerably and so have costs. We constantly hear the phrase because we’re worth it, and unfortunately many of us believed it. In global terms we were living beyond our means, wanting and having more and more, demanding the earth, paying ourselves too much and borrowing like as if money was going out of fashion and now it has!
During this boom period, in Ireland, we thought we were super heroes, who had solved all our financial problems ourselves, that we had got where we were on our own hard work and abilities and some of that is true.Some even believed that we were up there with the top rich countries in the world. We had lost the run of ourselves and sometimes lost our soul. Even then our experts were drawing poverty lines and deciding who was above or below it, and looking at relative poverty and statistical curves within this little speck of island land on the edge of Europe. Now that the little boy has declared that the king has no clothes, we will have to have a new look at ourselves and decide how rich we really are, even after the soap has left the bubble and surface tension has deserted us.
We have to do a little thinking and realise that being part of a global economy puts demands and responsibilities on us in return for our high standard of living.
Maybe that constant growth is unsustainable; that we can’t have more and more, while others on the same globe have less and less, and are we now poor?
What does being poor mean and who is poor? Academics and statisticians spend their lives deciphering universes of data on this very question. Real Poverty is simple, it doesn’t need a graph.
On Tuesday January 20 when I arrive in the Village of Kazando, 15 miles south west of Mzuzu City in Northern Malawi, I will have no problem in telling what being poor is. You might say they are really poor or even really really poor. So if some people this poor, there must be 99% of the rest of us on the same planet relatively rich.Everyone in Ireland is relatively rich compared to them.
When W4Z first met these villagers, this time last year, they lacked even the most basic of resources, like clean water and adequate food. We solved the water problem, by helping them to put in a well and a simple pump. The food was more complex; we had to feed them during the hungry season, until March and then convince them that they should build a simple dam. Finally we had to hold their hands, do the dam and give them small amounts of seed and fertilizer. Now about twenty families will be food secure for the next year. This means they will have maize and some soya. Now we have to start on vegetables, a fish pond, chickens and bees.
Their problems stem from a serious lack of, money (they have none), local leadership and self esteem. They have acquired a learned dependency expecting the guys in the white jeeps will arrive as before, give then whatever and are never seen again until the next televised emergency: their lack of clothing means they don’t attend even the most rudimentary education and the health service is distant if you have no transport other than your feet. If a woman has difficulty in childbirth, herself and her child probably die. If the maize harvest fails due to lack of rain or artificial fertilizer, people can and do die. Floods, Malaria, and rudimentary hygiene cause havoc, not to mention HIV and AIDS.
Put simply, poor people lack the basics, like clean water, adequate suitable food, health and education. They lack any kind of asset. They are unable to break out of their hand to mouth existence; even a single unforseen emergency can mean the end.
We, at W4Z try and bring poor villagers a hand up, with inspiration, some relevant education, challenge and a small spot of zero interest micro credit.
I have observed in Kazando that the women are illiterate and uneducated, and don’t send their children to school. So I feel that the education of girls could have the single biggest effect after water and food. If a mother is educated she will see that her children are educated. If the education includes horticulture, diet and health care, then people are on their way. The ripples can impact all aspects of life.
Now, on reflection; How rich are you?


Blip of the Week

Malawi 06.01.09 012

Originally uploaded by wellsforzoe

Mines is a winner.
From all the thousands of pictures uploaded to last week, this pic taken by Harisen scooped top spot.

Tuesday 6 January 2009 : Mines in the Banana Leaves
This little girl, Mines, is Benidicto’s daughter one of our workers and villagers in the Lusangazi vegetable farm.
She is full of what we call devilment. She is perpetual motion and enjoys life to the full.
With temperature in the mid twenties, she is sheltering in the banana leaves.
Last time I saw her, I was bringing her to hospital with malaria. She is so bright and cute.

The notification came as follows

Monday 12 January 2009 : Blip Of The Week

Hi Blippers!

Doesn’t the week just whiz round?

It’s that time again, when we try and pick out a Blip you might have missed. Well here it is: Blip of the Week by Harisen at Wells for Zoë.

This little charmer has made everyone at Blipcentral smile and serves as another reminder of the amazing insights we get on Blip every day. Try and catch up with as many of their Blips as you can, and see the difference a small group people can make. Inspiring stuff.

Harisen deserves this award for persistence alone as sometimes it takes two hours to send a picture: such is the poor state of of the internet service in Mzuzu.
We are all delighted with the recognition.

To visit our site

Potential Food Crisis, Says MSU Study

Malawi may face a food crisis in early 2009, a regional food security study has warned, and Zambia announced it was importing maize as a pre-emptive measure.
“There is some evidence of a potential food crisis emerging in Zambia and possibly Malawi in early 2009, not because of world food price levels, but because of potential physical shortages, which are likely to send maize prices sharply higher over the coming months,” said the US-based Michigan State University (MSU) study, The 2008/09 Food Price and Food Security Situation in Eastern and Southern Africa: Implications for Immediate and Longer Run Responses.
“In both countries, national maize supplies may be depleted before the 2009 harvest and maize imports may be required to avoid rationing of government stocks”.
Indications are the food security problems have been compounded by inaccurate projections in Malawi and lack of coordination between the private and public sector on food requirements in Zambia, found the study.
Isaac Phiri, Zambia’s permanent secretary for agriculture confirming the possibility of shortages said, “As a pre-emptive measure we are importing 100,000 metric tonnes of maize [from Latin America, as Zambia only buys non-GMO maize]”.
Zambia consumes 60,000 mt every month. “We estimate that private traders have hoarded at least 100,000 mt of maize – so the country will have 200,000 mt which should see us through three months until the early March harvest,” explained Phiri.
Andrew Daudi, principle secretary in the Malawian ministry of agriculture and food security told IRIN, “We [Malawi] have enough food,” and then hung-up the phone.
Maize prices in Malawi are or are near historic highs in inflation-adjusted terms, found the MSU study.
Inaccurate crop forecasts
Inaccurate crop estimates exacerbated food insecurity in Malawi in 2007/09, said the study authors . The Malawian government had forecast a bumper harvest in 2007 with a projected surplus of 1.2 million mt. On the basis of this projection, the government made plans to export over 400,000 mt of maize in the region, including Zimbabwe. The government, noted the study, however, was able to source only 300,000 mt.
The information sent “the price of maize rocketing to levels seen only in the most severe drought years…If the government had been able to produce a more accurate estimate of crop production, it might not have arranged to export maize, which in turn might have avoided the huge price surge in late 2007/early 2008 which caused great hardship for maize buying households”.
By late 2007/early 2008, maize prices in Malawian markets were US $100 to $150 per tonne higher than in other regional markets.
The local grain marketer, Agriculture Development and Marketing Corporation (ADMARC), began to ration the maize sold in its outlets; and localised food shortages were reported.
In May 2008, the government announced yet another surplus – 500,000 mt and in an effort to provide a floor price instructed ADMARC to buy more maize, said the study.
ADMARC began buying maize at 20,000 kwacha ($140) per tonne at the start of the 2008 harvest, but raised eventually to $280 per tonne to outbid private traders. These actions pushed the price of maize to “historic highs” according to the study.
The government then imposed a ban on private maize trade, however going on to allow small scale traders to sell, but at up to 52 kwacha per kg. As this selling price is less than the market price in most parts of the country, traders have held on to their stocks, according to the authors.
Aid operations of NGOs and food relief agencies such as the World Food Programme have been affected by the food price hike, according to the study, “ because they are forced to tender at prices below 52 kwacha per kg, which both large traders and ADMARC are refusing to sell at”.
As the government does not acknowledge there is a food problem,the aid agencies cannot even ask for finanicial support.
In early October, 2008, the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee said at least 1.5 million people could face food shortages. “Speculation that the country may not have adequate supplies to last till the 2009 harvest may push prices much higher,” said the study

Ceirnín carthanachta a chuideoidh le bochtáin Mhaláive

Ceirnín carthanachta a chuideoidh le bochtáin Mhaláive
Le Robert McMillen

Teacht na Nollag agus bíonn ceirníní carthanachta go flúirseach ar na seilfeanna sna siopaí ceirnín. In amanna, tá sé doiléir fáil amach cá háit a rachaidh an brabús a dhéantar ar na ceirníní ach tá CD neamhghnách amháin amuigh agus is féidir bheith cinnte go rachaidh an t-airgead chuig na daoine agus na tograí a bhfuil sé dírithe orthu.

Tá John agus Mary Coyne, tuismitheoirí fhear an bhainseó Éamonn Coyne, ag déanamh beart de réir a mana “A hand-up, not a hand-out” an Nollaig seo.

Tá cuid de na ceoltóirí agus amhránaithe traidisiúnta agus tíre is fearr bailithe le chéile acu le CD a dhéanamh, Wells for Zoë/Water for Life, a rachaidh an brabús chun socair daoine bochta i dtuaisceart na Maláive in oirdheisceart na hAfraice.

Is é an aidhm atá ag John and Mary ná uisce úr glan a chur ar fáil ar bhonn leanúnach agus timpeallacht inmharthana saoil a chruthú do mhuintir na háite.

B’fhurasta cúpla traic a chaitheamh le chéile ach is bailiúchán d’ardchaighdeán é Wells for Zoë/Water for Life mar is léir ó na hoirfidigh atá air.

Tá teidealrian an albaim scríofa ag an Albanach Karine Polwert, amhrán a cheolann sí i gcuideachta Tim O’Brian

Tá rian úr le Sinead O’Connor – Baby Let Me Buy You a Drink (uisce glan atá i gceist ar ndóigh!) – a scríobh John Waters; Just in Case of Accidents, amhrán úr le Paul Brady; meascán de cheol traidisiúnta na hAlban agus ceol salsa ó Salsa Celtica; This Love Will Carry, amhrán a thógfadh croí an duine is éadóchasaí; leagan álainn de Muddy Waters le Heidi Talbot agus mar bhuaicphointe an albaim, creid é no na creid é, Maura O’Connell agus an bhuíon bluegrass The Dukhs ag ceol Sisters Are Doin’ it For Themselves!

Sin ráite, tá na hamhráin uilig ar aon chaighdeán agus ba cheart go mbeadh an CD in achan teach, ar son na carthanachta agus ar son an cheoil araon.

Eagraíocht bheag fhorbairt inbhuanaithe atá in Wells for Zoë a bhunaigh na Coynes, arb as Leamhcán i gContae Átha Cliath iad, i 2005.

Ba é an aidhm a bhí acu na fáil ar uisce glan a sholáthar do bhunadh na háite. D’íoc na Coynes as na costais uilig ach ó shin i leith, tá stádas carthanachta bainte amach ag an eagraíochta agus aithnítear mar eagraíocht neamhrialtasach anois é.

Sin ráite, glanann na Coynes na costais go fóill le go rachaidh gach brabús chuig na daoine is mo a bhfuil gá acu leis.

Tá Wells for Zoë ar Compass Records agus is féidir tuilleadh eolais a fháil ó