Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Sweet Smell of Manure

This month I have found out just what the smell of success really is. Hint, its not leathery like the inside of a wallet. Nor is it the smell of a pretentious bottle of wine from eons ago. Give up? Well, it smells more like the backside of a parade. I’m serious, it really does. Normally only soil science nuts revel in the olfactory onslaught that is the smell of manure. I’m afraid however, I can now relate.

Lets first back up a little bit. I need to explain something that has a huge impact on my time here. The life of a Peace Corps Volunteer sees some of the highest highs and some of the lowest lows one could ever experience. One day you could be walking on air, sure that you belong nowhere else but right here among smiling people and a landscape more ruggedly beautiful than anything I have ever seen. Everything is just beautiful. The next day, you detest anything and everything that moves, the drunkards, the incessant smoke, and hideous music from a fifth hand radio that is virtually unintelligible. You wish to God for a magic flute that will warp you back to... well wherever (or straight to Bowser’s Castle). Its also extremely ugly.

Fortunately, if you can’t tell by the subtle spunk in the post thus far, I’m in a happy place. I am drawn back to just about a year ago when I was but a naive pup in my village. The month was June and unaware of the ridiculous heat that awaited me and unafraid of failure, I was rather gung-ho about everything. Later when things slowed down, I regressed (conversely to the thermometer) and began to despair about actually getting things done. Every slight attempt of mine to grow something in my back yard failed. I couldn’t really rally the villagers to try one of my cockamamie ideas and when I could get their attention, they would listen to me, or so I thought, and then nod off to sleep. They weren’t uninterested. Rather, as I wrote a few posts ago, they were tired because they had been up since 3:30 AM working in the fields in preparation of the rain. Little did I know, I was infringing on their highly coveted "nap time".
I endured a good five or six months of some serious soul searching; questioning my ability to see anything through past the idea stage. Luckily I had some vacation in there to break things up, but as I was gallivanting around Southern Africa, I felt even more guilty. Not only was I not able to get anything done, I up and left to go do some sailing, drink some wine and go dune hopping.
In those first few months however, I got quite a bit done and I was pretty excited about everything. Thankfully, a year, and agricultural cycle, later, I am happy to report that I have been walking around with a little skip in my step. I have finally been able to rally the troops just like when I first got here. This time, however I’ve got them all riled up about... poop. Yes that's right, poop (well leaf and grass matter too). I’ll take my victories where ever they come from, thank you.

In an effort to address the food security issue (the one I wrote about rather dismally in the previous post) I have been trying to put together a number of projects that will hopefully mitigate the impact of an extended hungry season. Kitchen gardens, or small household gardens have, thus far been my main focus. As you may know, the soil that surrounds a typical villager’s household is nothing but compacted dirt which is swept clean every day. This makes gardening a bit difficult; like trying to grow vegetables in the fast lane of I-95. Last week, we held a little demonstration of how to make compost manure. We made soaking wet layers of leaves and cow dung, up to about one meter high. On a side note, it was about 65 degrees under an overcast sky with a slight drizzle. The villagers were dressed for a Canadian Squall. I on the other hand was reveling in it. Anyway, we finished off the heap and upon retuning the next day I was greeted with smiles and a steaming pile of decaying poo! Seeing the people so anxious about compost made me grin and at the same time made me excited to be a volunteer out in the bush. We decided that those present would venture out into their respective villages and do similar demonstrations with their neighbors. Kevin is Elated! Not only is making compost a very important concept, the villagers have gone and decided to make the project sustainable! What more could I ask for?

Well, I'm afraid I must leave the post here, I am in the capital only for a few days and I will be returning to Mulanje Mountain for another hike. There are rumors that there was a pretty substantial frost there in the past few weeks. Luckily I still have some warm clothes. After that, I intend on returning to the village to make some more of that sweet smelling compost!


Anonymous said...

I had a meeting today with one Mr. Brian Malone. In the course of small talk over lunch, he mentioned your work in Malawi and his recent vist there. It was beaming dad who was happy to see his son become self sustaining and now, compost willing, the sustainer of others. I have a family in Malawi and visited many years ago. It is truly the warm heart of Africa.

Good luck...keep blogging.

Anonymous said...

Awesome, Maloner. I'd like compost a lot if I was in your position too. We miss you out in America. I'm home from Japan but not yet in L'Ville... currently in Oregon. Interested in moving out here when you return next year? - hul

Anonymous said...

Hey Kevin,

My name is Ian Blouw and I worked with Chris Hulette in Japan for the past year. I mentioned to him before that I'd be making my way to Malawi in the next little while and he told me to contact you. I'll be passing through the country sometime in the next month or so and I thought it might be cool to meet up if you have a chance or if it's at all possible to do so. I'm still not too sure what cities I'll be near but I can definitely fill you in on that when I find out. My email address is Let me know what you think about this.


Ian Blouw

Anonymous said...

Greetings! Very useful advice within this article!
It's the little changes that will make the largest changes. Thanks for sharing!

Here is my webpage: visit the up coming internet site

Anonymous said...

There is certainly a lot to find out about this topic.
I like all the points you have made.

Here is my web blog Click Through The Following Post

Anonymous said...

I'm impressed, I have to admit. Rarely do I encounter a blog that's both educative and interesting,
and let me tell you, you've hit the nail on the head. The problem is something not enough men and women are speaking intelligently about. I am very happy that I found this during my hunt for something relating to this.

My web-site Recommended Reading

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing such a good thinking, piece of writing is good, thats why i have
read it completely

Look into my web site; 24option

Anonymous said...

obviously like your website but you have to check the spelling on several of your posts.
Many of them are rife with spelling problems and I in finding it very bothersome to inform the reality however I will surely come again again.

My web site want to work From home