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This is a day in the life of rural Malawi women; seen here socializing as they go about the day's work. The chitenge is the traditional wrap that is most often used to cover one's legs (as this is a fairly conservative culture). It is wrapped and tied like a sarong and comes in many different colors and designs.

Rural Village Life, Mulanje, Malawi, 2016.
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Caring for the Environment

As part of the Othakarhaka (OK) Agroforestry Program, seedlings (in tubes) are obtained through the District Forestry Officer and then are nurtured by OK volunteers in mini tree nurseries throughout the area. The saplings eventually get planted to replace trees used for medicinal purposes, fruits, fuel, etc. Othakarhaka ensures that a new tree is planted wherever one is cut, and they protect the trees while they grow. As of September 2016, 150,000 tree saplings had been planted and 200,000 more were planned for the following year.

Othakarhaka Foundation, Mulanje District, Malawi, 2016.


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Ida Puliwa (founder of Othakarhaka Foundation) explaining the farming conditions in rural Mulanje.

Othakarhaka currently has 1,135 small holder farmers participating in their program.

Each farmer is loaned a small plot of land and given enough high yield seeds (maize) for one crop. They are then taught how to sow the seeds, fertilize them, water them, tend to the growth, and harvest. Upon harvest, they are required to give one 50kg bag back to Othakarhaka each year.

This year all farmers in the program are doing well even despite drought because they had seed and fertilizer and they started at first rains (so crops already had a good start when the dry spell started). There are no mechanized farming tools or help. Instead they usually just have one tool: the hoe. They apply fertilizer by hand. They reroute irrigation ditches by hand (move mud from one ditch to another to control where the water flows)… all on a manual time table.

With their small profits (even after giving back the required 50 kg bag of maize), farmers have built houses or added roofs or cement floors. Some have started small businesses selling groceries, fish, goats, etc. Each farmer that has participated in the program so far is fully self sustaining at this point (selling their product and having enough money to feed their families and sometimes starting other businesses). The more money that can be raised, the more farmers can be brought into the program.

Othakarhaka Foundation, Mulanje District, Malawi, 2016.

For more on this story, and other ways Othakarhaka is lifting its villagers out of poverty, go to www.patriciafortlage.com.

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All. Done. By. Hand.

Most all farming done in rural Malawi is done by hand, ENTIRE fields. Usually the only tool, if they have one, is a hoe.

Othakarhaka Foundation, Mulanje District, Malawi, 2016.

For more on this story, go to www.patriciafortlage.com.
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Irrigating By Hand

Here a woman is moving mud by hand in order to shift the irrigation flow from one plot of land to another.

Othakarhaka Foundation, Mulanje District, Malawi, 2016.

For more of this story, go to www.patriciafortlage.com.
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Diverting The River

Here sandbags are used (and moved manually) to divert the river for irrigating adjacent plots of land for farming.

Othakarhaka Foundation, Mulanje District, Malawi, 2016.



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Thriving field of maize...

Because of the Othakarhaka Foundation, this year all farmers in the program are doing well even despite drought. See more of this story at www.patriciafortlage.com .

Othakarhaka Foundation, Mulanje District, Malawi, 2016.



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Here was a girl, from one of the poorest regions in the poorest country on earth, who wanted an education. Her uncle's girlfriend agreed to sponsor her in college, but they died in a car accident between Ida's second and third year. Ida left school until a kind woman from the US offered to sponsor her to graduation. Because of the kindness of these two women, Ida Puliwa would be the first girl in her village (and the other 9 villages surrounding hers) to get a full education. They saw her as a role model, and a hero.

So what did Ida do? She forwarded that kindness to her communities. She started a foundation called Othakarhaka (‘passing on the kindness’) which has developed a number of programs benefiting her local communities. They have orphan school scholarships, an adult literacy program, a tailoring program, a farming program, a 4H program for students, a tree planting program, along with many other smaller efforts (training on how to build rocket stoves, caring/protection for the elderly, bee keeping, etc.). The Foundation has a full board of directors, is supported by all 10 local chiefs, has over 3,000 volunteers, and is LOCALLY managed. Yes, there has been a small amount of support from other countries here and there, but only when initiated – and managed – by Ida herself. There is no other country or organization telling her what to do or how to do it. No one is saving these villages, but these villages themselves… all led by Ida Puliwa, a young woman who, as a girl, was very grateful for an education.

Othakarhaka Foundation, Mulanje District, Malawi, 2016. To support Ida head on over to https://www.gofundme.com/2af97dr8

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Rural Malawi, Africa

This small East African nation (about the size of Pennsylvania) is currently the poorest country in the world, with an annual per capita income of less than $366 ($1 per day), and an average life expectancy of 52 years. Within its population of about 12 million, over 600,000 are orphans—the result of widespread HIV/AIDS, which kills nearly 80,000 people per year. There is an entire generation missing here... parents. There are children and there are some grandparents, but the middle generation, the parents, the breadwinners, are missing.

Life in rural Malawi is not easy. Mud or brick huts with tin or thatched roofs. Some have openings for windows. Others do not. Some have more than one room, many do not. No kitchen. No bathroom. No beds. Possibly a mat to sleep on. Sometimes a mattress on the ground. Hopefully a mosquito net to sleep under, unless it is being used to catch fish. No electricity. Water pumped from a community well, hopefully nearby. Laundry often done in a river or lake.

Rural Village Life, Mulanje, Malawi, 2016.

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The interior of a typical one room hut.

Rural Village Life, Mulanje, Malawi, 2016.


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