UK based trustee of Ganet’s Adventure School Fund Steve McInerny spoke to the school’s director Gertrude Banda in Malawi about how the death of president Mutharika affected people in Nkhata Bay.
I spoke to Gertrude a few days after the state funeral of president Bingu Wa Muthrika, for a view from inside Malawi on their president. Nkhata Bay district is a rural area, with many people dependent on farming for food and income.
Setting his contraversial later years as president aside, President Mutharika’s most important contribution from the point of view of the people of Nkhata Bay was in 2005 when he ordered the cost of fertiliser to be subsidised. Prices for fertiliser fell from 5,000 kwacha to 500 kwacha, and farm productivity shot up, bringing food security to millions in a country which had previously been affected by famines on a semi-regular basis.
In the future the hope is that Malawi will become less dependent on fertilisers. which can cause pollution and use up large amounts of energy in their production. Gertrude puts this into practice at the school with its large permaculture garden, which helps to teach the children about more sustainable methods.
The president’s body was taken to Mzuzu where it was put on public display for two days. The day of his funeral, 23 May, was a public holiday and many people watched the ceremony on TVs in cafes and bars.
People in the area are optimistic about the new president, Joyce Banda, who is in charge at least until the general elections in 2014. Gertrude is very proud that Malaiw has a female president, only the second time ever in Africa that a woman has taken on this role.