We had staff trained in animal husbandry and dairy management - at least to the best level that could managed locally - to ensure best possible care. We also built a dairy unit with milking parlours, designed for ease of use and cleaning, then added a male khola (house) and paddocks.
Malnutrition amongst children is widespread in Malawi. Food is hard to come by and the weakest fail to thrive.
One day an elderly woman came, cradling a whimpering baby. The child had been orphaned, and was obviously hungry, barely surviving on the thinned maize gruel that was all she had been able to provide. The baby needed milk, but there’s none available in the area.....
Goats’ milk is suitable for even tiny babies, much better than cows’ milk. If we could build a dairy herd of goats, we could send “Milk Rounds” by bicycle out into the local villages to give “Foster Milk” to orphaned and AIDS-affected babies to give them a chance of life.
We had a 20ft kraal built of local materials by local craftsmen. We then brought in 6 young female hybrid goats, and started milking as kids were born - much to the incredulity and amusement of local villagers!
Solely to increase milk yield we developed a breeding programme and stud facility. We tried to cross our “girls” with saanens (a breed known for its high milk yield) - or as close as we could find in the African Bush! The goats grew up, and on the very day that we managed to get the first half-cup of clean milk from our first goat, - as opposed to polluted with hair and dirt where she put her foot in the bucket! - we heard that a young mother in a local village had just died leaving a 4-week old baby.
vulnerable and sickly,
(right), 6 months and gallons of goats’ milk later - gaining weight
Next day we sent a bottle of diluted goats milk to the family, and continued daily. The little one not only survived - she thrived - much to the delight of her grandmother who had hardly dared hope she would live.
at 9 months, with
her delighted grandmother
Little Thokazani (her name means “we give thanks”) was brought to us by her aunt. She was just one week old and her mother had died in childbirth - probably due to the beatings received from her husband, causing birth complications.
Tiny Thokazani was wrapped in rags, and her aunt had no way of feeding her. So we gave clothing and a blanket, and included her on our milk programme - she now stands a chance of survival.
Over the years, since the programme was introduced
in 2007, hundreds of babies have been helped by our
goats’ milk. Sadly, not all have survived, but all have
been given that precious chance at life,
despite their circumstances.
To each one that doesn’t make it,
we donate towards their funeral -
a big issue in Malawi - bringing
comfort and relief to their
Babies can remain on the programme till 12 months, helping them through the “early” weaning process
Milk is treated, refrigerated or frozen for
storage on our site, though we are always alert to the unreliable electricity supply.
Distribution is by foot, push-bike, or BUV - our Basic Utility Vehicle. Our goats’ milk is distributed, free of charge, to ultra vulnerable babies - usually orphans, AIDS-affected, or with mums who are too malnourished themselves to produce milk.
We travel out into the remote areas to established “milk drop” sites, where the families of assessed babies congregate to collect their supply.
Milk drops at Thamanda and Chigwirigwidi villages
We first met little “Prayer”when
she was about 18 months old.
She was frail, swollen with
malnutrition, and sickly. She
lived with her 18 yr old aunt
who also had a child of her
own - a very reluctant carer.
“Prayer” was often left alone,
malnourished and neglected, only
looked after by her 6-year old sister.
One of our staff, concerned for her welfare, had suggested we help with milk. We gave her a mosquito net too, so malaria was less of a problem and she slowly gained strength. At two, she weighed just 7kgs and still couldn’t walk, but, built up by the goats milk, she amazed us all by taking her first steps a few months later.
Update: 2012 - see “Happiness” at 5yrs, just about to start school!