Friday, April 16, 2010

Malawian Hodgepodge

I usually try to write posts that have some underlying theme which require a lot of thinking (kinda shows how empty-headed I am), but there's just too many things to think about as I dive headfirst into Malawi for 4 full days (count 'em).

Why am I here? Well, as my study is on soy food products, one such product is called corn-soya blend (commonly known as CSB). It's basically a - you guessed it - blend of corn and soy flour and nutrients that can be made into a porridge when water is added. It was invented in Likuni, Malawi, and has since been adopted world-wide by UNICEF, WFP, and other NGOs as a crucial tool against malnutrition. In fact, the porridge is known as Likuni Phala (phala=porridge). From what I understand, it's commonly consumed in Malawaian homes, so why not Mozambique? Right now it's only used in feeding program in most places, especially Mozambique, but I want to also look at the potential for commercialization. In addition to touring the factories and meeting with the directors of CSB companies, I'm also checking out other soy foods producers and soybean suppliers. Oh, and my one month Mozambique visa expires soon, so that's just another reason to go out and re-enter.

Outside of my work, which has been a whirlwind and consumed most of my time, I've been blown away by the green space here and the civility of the cities. I've been in the largest city, Blantyre, and the capital city, Lilongwe. What has struck me are the tree-covered (and smooth) roads, shaded pathways, and progressive feel of the cities. Maybe I've been in Mozambique too long, but there is a sense that the infrastructure here is being looked after. In Nampula, Mozambique, some of the potholes are getting so deep that after rains you could probably go fishing. In Mozambique, the attitude is to cut down the trees - often it seems for no good reason. What has resulted is dust, in the wind, and everywhere. It's a rarity to see roads in Mozambique that don't look like the beach. There's even an exchange that Mozambicans have: Someone will say, "How's it going?", and the other will say "Poeira", which means "dust"...kind of like the conventional (and pointless, in my opinion) greeting response of complaining about the weather.

There's also the English speaking population (former British colony) and cool weather that are really making it a pleasant stay. It's amazing the different perspective you get of a country when you're not miserable from heat and unable to have meaningful conversations with anyone.

They also figured out bread here. They put Mozambique to shame, which is ridiculous considering it seems that bread makes up about 1/3 of the urban diet in Moz. They do bread and they do it big. I bought a bagel-like bread about the size of my head. Oh dear it was wonderful to dig into that. Other than that their fare is pretty uninspiring - the usual xima, chips (or who are we kidding, they're French Fries), or rice is paired with chicken, beef, or assorted meats that came from parts of an animal you don't want to hear about. That's the cheap stuff at least - that's what I go for.

I'll update you with some more later, but I just wanted to let you in on some of the happenings. (And if you were wondering, it's nice to stay at decent hotels instead of sweating or getting bit up at hostels...just don't try to book a hotel the day before your stay in the capital on the weekend when the president is getting married. Apparently 20 heads of state are here. Stupid.)


  1. Rob, fascinating story on your foray into Malawi. I have been researching countries in Southern Africa over the past several days and Maputo, Mozambique is definitely on the list.

    Would love to catch up soon via Skype.

  2. Great to hear from you Wyatt. Let's definitely Skype soon. Will be in touch.

  3. If you are a young person or a traveler on a tight budget, you might want to stay in a hostel because it will be cheap and you can do a lot of people.

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