SAFI has created an entire village about 1 1/2 hours north of Lilongwe where students and their families live, study, and work for about nine months before returning to their villages where they are monitored for another year.
Our former branch president, Talakwani Kanjala, was accepted and moved to the village in October. In September, I wrote a blog about going with the Kanjalas out to their village, where he showed us his land. There are also two member families from Liwonde, under the juridiction of our district, and two member families from Lilongwe. President Matale, our district president, wanted to check on the welfare of his three families, and meet with the administrator to better understand the program.
We were happy to drive him up there because we, too, were very curious about the program. The drive to Lilongwe was familiar, but President Matale could point out interesting things along the way.
Malawi or Mozambique? The road follows the boundary for many miles so in these three photos we are looking at Mozambique.
Upon arrival, we were really excited to see Brother Kanjala and his family - and they were excited to see us!
President Matale greeting Yankho, the Kanjala's son.
I turned when I heard my name called out several times, and got a BIG hug from Sister Kanjala!
Little Victor, born just a week or two before they left, was no longer a newborn but a beautiful healthy and happy baby!
When we drove off the main highway, following the signs to SAFI, one of the first things we noticed was how well-maintained the dirt road was; next we noticed how the signs were very clear about locations within the village (not quite sure about "mashroom").
Brother Kanjala to the right of the sign, along with other Church members.
Everywhere we went, there were children watching our every move.
No doubt, we were the entertainment for the day! And they love having their photo taken!
I went off with Sister Kanjala to see their home, and George went off with the men to see the fields and get a tour of the village.
The small experimental gardens.
I rejoined the men at the fields after being served a mango and meeting some of the other LDS wives. Since no one spoke English, there were mostly smiles and a little pantomime.
An interesting sign in front of the Kanjala's.
On the way to the fields, I passed the construction of new homes. SAFI is growing larger with its success.
It's hard to believe, but by using the correct techniques, hybrid seed, good fertilizer applied properly,, and much hard work, the farmers can increase the crop yield by 700 percent more than normal!
Everyone is waiting for the rains since it is usually after the second rain, the planting begins.
Walking back to the village...
You can see how happy everyone is to have President Matale there!
This is a popular spot - the General Store.
Before we left, President Matale went in and bought us freshly baked scones (rolls), since we had been smelling them as they cooked in the big oven outside.
Another sign as we went to meet for a meeting in a classroom
past the little boy playing in the laundry sink.
Waiting for the others to arrive
Husbands and wives sat with one another, not always the norm in Malawi. But couples work together in this program, working in the fields in the early mornings and late afternoons, and attending classes together mid-day.
Today was a day off from the usual, because President Matale conducted a session (in Chichewa), covering the church's position on self-reliance, lines of authority and responsibilities of various levels within a branch, with a big emphasis on unity - sticking together and helping one another! George and I each said a few words. George mentioned how his grandparents were farmers, and I mentioned how many parables there were in the New Testament about planting, grafting, and harvesting - the very things that were important in their lives.
It was explained to us that "nutrition" is the most important subject because everything else keys off of it. Look at the variety of classes: horticulture, irrigation, livestock, fisheries, forest conservation, and tree farming.
Attendance - it's definitely back to school!
So, while the parents were in school - and particularly because this was a special day with visitors, the children were extra curious and waited patiently outside.
The next time they have a group photo might be at their 2017 graduation!
Okay - more kids! We were definitely popular that day!
and a conference room.
President Matale took his turn with Victor - who could resist?
And we continued our walk around the village.
and then I got my turn with Victor.
George got to have his turn with Victor
while I managed to visit the maize mill.
In this case, the larger village around SAFI also comes to this mill to grind their maize.
At the end of the nine months, when the families return to their villages, they are given a loan in order to buy the seed and fertilizer they need. They are also given a chicken and a goat. At the end of the monitored year, they should be able to pay back their loans and still have a surplus. During that year, they are obligated to teach ten other families of the things they learned at SAFI. After graduation at the end of the second year (89% success rate), they are given a grant to become totally independent for the next growing season.
We had a long drive home and unfortunately most of it was going to be in the dark. We said our good-byes.
And good-bye to those many smiling faces that followed us all day!