By Kondwani Kaunda
We are Malawians. Our country is covered by land (79%) and water (21%). Our Lake Malawi is the ninth largest lake in the world and the third largest and second deepest lake in Africa. It is all fresh water and a habitat to more species of fish than any other lake, including about 1000 species of cichlids.
Currently, we are experiencing challenges to generate enough electricity for approximately 10% of the 16 million+ population (who are connected to our electricity grid). Our electricity is hydro generated, mind you. Furthermore, our waterboards are struggling to supply the people, connected to the pipeline, with safe and portable water. We have dry taps. The reason they give is that the water table has fallen.
The situation gets much worse even when it rains. The reason given during such times is heavy siltation, debris or something as comical as a monkey sat on some switch boards or something else.
We use our Lake mostly to swim in it or at times it is a burden when we want to travel to other parts of the country. It is also a great source of our chambo fish and famous bonya or kapenta.
We also have too much heat from the sun. It makes us sweat too much that we plan to relax in our waters at the lake and cool off as and when we can afford it. At times, the elite of our society organise music festivals along the beaches of our lake for fun. In Nsanje, for instance, it gets very hot to temperatures of almost 40°c or more.
We also have strong winds sometimes. It gets very dusty especially in Lilongwe that our hairs get dusty. It is a burden at times. Yes indeed, it becomes a burden when you have to be in such dusty surroundings when we are nicely dressed for the office or weekend going to a political rally or engagement/ wedding ceremonies.
The water in the Lake, the wind and the constant heat from the sun? I hear other countries use them for other things like generating energy/ electricity or tourism? And some people say these countries are improving their economies through investing in energy or tourism? Maybe they have enough money to waste on these sectors. Our policy is to have food on the table today. Not invest in things that don’t amount to immediate results. We love maize our staple food and tobacco our cash crop (green gold).
You see, our 1.1 trillion kwacha national budget has 73% (Mk800 billion) in consumption and 27% (Mk300 billion) for development investment. We spend a lot this year to buy food (maize mostly) and some to buy fertilizers for our poor farmers whom we will also give the relief maize. We will also give them iron sheets and cement to improve their economic well being. We also plead with other well-to-do countries like China, USA, UK and even South Africa to help us with 40% of our largely consumption budget. Otherwise, it is tough for us on our own to:
-cultivate enough food for ourselves for even one year (because rain is scarce and we can’t afford fertilizers);
-build our own schools or hospitals;
-pay our own teachers and medical personnel;
-build bridges or roads or railways lines;
-even to buy essential medicine, learning materials, fertilisers, oil and even our nice suits and shoes for ourselves…
You see, life is not easy for us!