A satellite map of the earth at night reveals a lot about the nature of extreme poverty. While most of the developed world is ablaze with artificial light, almost all of sub-Saharan Africa remains dark between sunset and sunrise. This stunning “energy poverty” of sub-Saharan Africa makes daily tasks that we take for granted, impossibilities for hundreds of millions of Africans. In Malawi only 10% of the population has access to electricity. But Malawi’s infrastructure poverty goes far beyond a lack of electricity. Malawi also lacks adequate roads, bridges, sanitation, and communications networks. Malawi has only 10,000 miles of roads in the entire country, while the slightly smaller, and 50% less populous, state of Ohio has over 125,000 miles of roads. This critical lack of infrastructure puts harsh limits on people’s daily lives and Malawi’s economy. Any development plan for Malawi must address the incredible infrastructure poverty that cripples Malawi’s growth.
And that is just what Villages in Partnership is doing. One of our biggest infrastructure initiatives is the construction of new bridges and the repairing of old or damaged bridges. During the rainy season, large swaths of Malawi become flooded and normally passable roads are turned into streams, ponds or muddy morasses. Bridges are crucial arteries of communication which allow students to get to school, women to get to wells, sick people to get to clinic and for people and goods to move from village to village and market to market.
VIP is also planning to undertake projects to continue to combat Malawi’s energy poverty. In 2013 VIP brought electricity to the village of Kalupe in order to power the new maize mill that we were constructing. The maize mill grinds corn (maize) to make the flour for Malawi’s staple food nshima. The new maize mill can do in minutes, what would have taken hours of back breaking labor with a large mortar and pestle. Having witnessed first-hand how electricity can transform the lives of vulnerable Malawians we are exploring new projects to bring power to our villages.