We take a dirt road from the main road and drive towards a steep descent with a narrow bridge. The sight is nostalgic – there are small houses lined up along the gravel road and some can be seen scattered orderly on some distant hills. The blue cloudless skies add beauty to this serene morning scenery. We pass some livestock – mostly goats and cows grazing quietly on pastures of deep green grass growing neatly on both sides of the road. A couple of herds boys lie lazily, chatting silently while cautiously watching the animals. They cheerfully wave at us and loudly whistle at our car as we rush past them.
He talks about the environment with such lit passion that it is easy to see how he loves the field of environmental conservation. When he goes into precise details explaining with clear examples how lots of local forests are becoming endangered and the accelerating rates of uncontrolled pollution in rivers, one can note a thin veil of anger in his sentiments – proof that he is really keen on preserving the nature. He is on his way to becoming the Malawian version of Al Gore.
When Ramazani fled Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 2010 and headed towards Malawi for refuge, little did he know that he was moving towards a life of misery. As soon as Ramazan, his wife and two kids arrived in Malawi’s largest refugee camp, Dzaleka, he immediately realized how hard his new life in the new country would be.
At age 3 and when she was still in pre-school, Alinafe’s father was killed in a tragic car accident. The tragedy disrupted Alinafe’s education right from the early stages and resulted in a long struggle with her studies. Alinafe’s father was the breadwinner of the household and everything in the family depended on him.
She is jovial, smiles a lot and is a strong-willed young woman who has the determination to excel in life. In spite of living with a disability which limits her mobility and would otherwise have deterred her from engaging in any physical work, she never let this bring her down. She can grab a hoe and cultivate maize, she can do laundry and she is able to cook – all on her own.
Moza Alima is a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). She fled insecurities and conflicts from her home country some years ago. It all started with a conflict that erupted in between her tribe and a rival tribe. During the fracas, her father and husband were killed by assailants because of their connections to the opponent tribe.
His carpentry shed stands opposite a football pitch, right in the heart of a village a few miles from the main road. It is small and roofed with some grass that is slowly turning grey due to a prolonged stay. A high bench made of rugged timber sits in the middle of the shed. From a distance, the place might seem abandoned and, to a certain extent, worthless but this small shabby carpentry shed is what is paying the bills for Maliko.
Chikuni is a small-scale farmer living in one of the remotest villages in Dowa District, about 50 kilometres from Malawi’s Capital, Lilongwe. In fact, farming has been a tradition in his family because his parents are small-scale farmers too and actually that is where Chikuni took after. The family grows tobacco, tomato, maize and different other varieties of crops. However, farming is unpredictable. Price fluctuations, erratic rainfalls and costly farm inputs all make the field of agriculture a risky business. And to small-scale farmers who mostly depend on the business for survival, sustaining farms at times becomes a bumpy ride.
Her name is Umuhoza which is Kinyarwanda meaning ‘Comforter’. Ironically though, the experience the young woman and her family have passed through in life has not been exactly comforting to her. For one, she is a refugee and that in itself is a huge discomfort. Her education too, from primary to secondary school, has been marred by a great deal of unbearable challenges. There was a time that Umuhoza gave up all hope and believed that she could never make it. Worse still, Umuhoza’s family are living in a setting where there are restrictions barring refugees from getting employed or running a business and this makes it extremely difficult for them to survive because it limits their sources of financial income.