I’ve been spending more time at our offices than I usually do due to fuel challenges. We’ve used the time well with planning meetings and further staff training but it’s also given me more time to observe the daily activities of the team and to appreciate the wide range of the work that we do. We have four departments – irrigation, farmer training & support, sales and maintenance. Our greenhouses, solar pumps and drip irrigation systems are high quality so the maintenance team spend more time installing new systems than actually doing maintenance, but we have a good spares supply chain and I’ve discovered that a Malawian with a toolkit can fix just about anything!
Our staff training sessions are always fun and enlightening. In many ways it feels like we are trying to put in what the Malawi education system has left out. Secondary education and even further education in Malawi is about filling people with knowledge and so we find our young team members don’t have effective planning or problem-solving skills. Financial literacy is also lacking so we have been majoring on these topics and try to use active teaching methods as far as possible. I am reaching back into my youth work days when I used to train youth leaders with Crusaders and Church and running our staff training sessions along these lines.
One of the pilot projects we have on site is the fruit drying operation. Last year we worked with students at Edinburgh College to design the dryers and we have been testing different fruits to see what might be possible.
The results so far are encouraging, and we are getting dried fruit with good colour, great flavour and the shelf life is excellent with fruit we dried 6 months ago still holding its colour and flavour. We have got the packaging sorted and we are now exploring potential markets which will influence what labelling we use. One exciting possibility is with the world Fair Trade Association, and we have a call with their Kenyan branch at the beginning of December to explore how we can get Fair Trade certification and tap into their export networks. Who knows, maybe one day we will all be able to buy our dried fruits back home in Scotland!