Senan Hogan in Malawi
Senan Hogan is in Malawi for his project for the Simon Cumbers Media Fund. This is his first blog entry for the Fund.
I’m just back from an exhausting but exhilarating project in Malawi in southern Africa.
My topic was to explore how Irish Aid is funding thousands of local
women to grow Irish potatoes and how this is allowing them to feed
their families and also to earn a household income by selling surplus crops at local markets.
I based myself in the capital, Lilongwe and worked off a five-day
itinerary. I usually had one meeting scheduled for each morning and
afternoon to allow for factors such as traffic, rainy season downpours
and additional research.
I also visited potato farms about a two hour drive away in the rural
As Malawi is a priority country for Irish Aid, it has a fully-fledged
Irish Embassy with experienced development staff who were very helpful
as was the International Potato Centre.
The former British colony is heavily dependent on overseas aid but is
making steady strides towards self sufficiency in agriculture.
Once again, I found that it’s vital to research every aspect of the
project before travelling as having to check information while on the
ground can be labour-intensive and will waste valuable time.
For the first time I hired a local ‘fixer’ Tembu who acted as a
driver/guide/translator to assist me in travelling to meetings or
I had to pay him a small daily retainer and a mileage rate but I found
his assistance very useful and it eased the pressure of constantly
reading maps, negotiating public transport or talking to locals with
poor English. Tembu also acted as a buffer to the sometimes persistent
On this trip, I tried to save money by booking cheap flights with long
connection times (even spending overnight in Nairobi Airport) to
ensure I had more funding available to me when I got to Malawi.
It was my second time to choose an African country as part of a SCMF
project (I studied issues around HIV/AIDS orphans in Zambia in 2008)
and I believe that I learned much more on this occasion and it has
encouraged me to continue to inform myself on the country long after
the project and indeed on Africa as a whole.
A final word of warning about bulky African currencies such as the
Kwacha in Malawi – try not to buy too much of it as it will be
difficult to find a bank willing to change back your wads when you
return to Europe!
My article and photographs from the project will be appearing in the
Irish Farmers’ Journal soon.
Safe travels to all SCMF recipients in 2011.
Please note: The views and opinions expressed in blogs under the Simon Cumbers Media Fund are those of the journalist and / or their interviewees. They do not necessarily reflect the views of Irish Aid, the Department of Foreign Affairs or the Irish Government.