2020 Program Updates

November 19, 2020

The new ultrasound machine has arrived at St. Andrews!

August 23, 2020

Covid-19: Here’s the latest from Malawi.  First, the small COVID-19 outbreak in Mtunthama is over.  The country of Malawi overall has seen 5,382 cases with 168 deaths. First case was reported on April 3rd and new  cases have been trending down since August 12.

Dairy Project:  Unfortunately our excitement over cow pregnancies was premature.  None of the heifers are pregnant, apparently because the frozen semen we used had no viable sperm in it.  We are in the process of acquiring more semen and ensuring that it has viable sperm at time of purchase and is handled properly so that viability is maintained  throughout our transport, storage, and insemination process.  Since we’re new at this, I think of such a minor setback as merely a learning opportunity.

Wello Water Wheels: 700 water wheels have been purchased along with the container that they will be shipped from Mumbai India.  The ship is supposed to leave for Dar Es Salaam , Tanzania in the next 10 days, so hopefully the container will be in Mtunthama by mid-late September.  The container will be used for a combination of storage, office space, and possibly, a small hydroponic project.

Bamboo:  6,000 bamboo saplings have been purchased and will be shipped from Zambia around Aug 27 with the plan that they will arrive in Mtunthama on Aug 28.  They will be distributed for free by our sister organization K2TASO soon thereafter.

Ultrasound Probe:  The convex array abdominal ultrasound probe for the Edan 60 Ultrasound machine we donated to St. Andrews in 2013 has broken and we were asked to replace it.  After much research, we were able to find a replacement, which should arrive in Mtunthama next week.

Hydroponic/Aquaponic System:  I have now successfully grown lettuce, radishes, bok choy, with very little effort, using the waste from 4 cichlids (fish native to Lake Malawi but very easy to obtain at PETCO) converted by bacteria to nitrates as the sole nutrient.  I have also grown peas and tomatoes using this system but yields are lower than I’d like so far.  I have also been able to grow carrots in a separate perlite hydroponic system.  Peter Minjale is looking into acquiring 2 systems much larger systems (mine is only good for 51 plants).

Solar Powered Milk Chiller:  A work in progress.  Having trouble finding a company to provide us with a working system. Please contact me at lisse@massmed.org if you have any ideas about this, including the knowledge to convert a small freezer or refrigerator to solar.

Reforestation Project: 200,000 saplings are in the process of being planted as we speak.


July 28, 2020

Just wanted to give you all an update on our projects and COVID 19 in Mtunthama, Malawi where we work.  There has been a small outbreak of COVID 19 there including 1 nurse from St. Andrews who was staying in the orphanage.  She was never hospitalized and had apparently acquired it in Lilongwe.  Her 36 close contacts in Mtunthama were all tested and were all negative.  St. Andrews has seen 2 other cases, both referred to Kasungu District Hospital, 1 of whom died.  4 healthcare workers at the Mtunthama government clinic (not K2TASO) have also tested positive about 2 weeks ago and are all OK.  Peter says the current total COVID cases in the Kasungu District are now at 51 with 1 death.  Don’t know the numbers for the country altogether, but so far their mortality and infection rates seem to be well below ours.

In light of the above, Peter an I talk once a week about what to do about any and all of our projects.  Thus far, he feels we should continue business as usual, so as money has become available, that’s how we’ve proceeded.  So here’s the good news, and there’s plenty of it.


        a) 15/30 cows have now been artificially inseminated and 5 are pregnant for certain.  The others were done too recently to be tested. This means we will have milk production sometime in May.

        b) The local Malawi agriculture government officers  are so impressed with what we are doing that they asked if we could donate some Friesian bull semen “straws” ($2.50 apiece) to them.  The want to start crossing Friesian genes with those of the local Malawi Zebu cattle because the Friesians produce about 10-15 Liters of milk a day while the Zebus produce only about 1-2 Liters.  The Friesian milk is also much higher in fat and protein.  This means that sometime in the future, between us and the government, the entire Kasungu District of 800,000 plus people could benefit from the consequent huge increase in nutrition and economic gain available to them.  Pretty cool, huh?

         c) The local government run veterinary school wants to start using our dairy project site as a place to send their students to learn best practices, including artificial insemination, because they have been so impressed with the work we are doing.  Total expenditure ytd approximately $60,000

2) 700 Wello water wheels, which enable poor farm women to roll barrels full of water from river to farm by means of a lawn mower like handle attached to them are being shipped from Mumbai (they are made nearby) to Dar Es Salaam and thence to Mtunthama.  This will make the lives of local farm women so much easier because they won’t have to carry water filled containers on their backs anymore. (see the Wello water wheel website for further details).  Peter wanted us to purchase the 40 foot shipping container as well for storage, office, and possible hydroponic use, and we did that.  Total cost will be approximately $29,300 (approximate because we don’t have import duty amount yet).  They should arrive by mid Sept if all goes well.

Wello water wheel

3) 6,000 bamboo plants will be imported from Zambia at the end of August for donation to farmers at a cost of $15,000.  This is in addition to the 4200 bamboo plants we have already given away grown from seeds purchased last year.  The bamboo provides an excellent source of charcoal and animal fodder and thus will help combat deforestation.

4) Peter is in the process of planting 200,000 tree saplings at a cost of $6500.  This will add to the over 70,000 trees which have survived from prior years of our reforestation.

5) We are in the process of giving away 300 more chickens (in addition to the 175 chickens we have already given away) as part of our other current pass-on program (the dairy project is one as well) at cost of $1650.

6) We have now drilled 3 new boreholes (wells) in different villages, including Chambwavi, where our the now completed secondary school girl’s hostel/dorm is located  and hopes to drill 3 more this year (using money already allocated last year)

7) Our Land Lease (help to poor farmers), Micro-credit Bank, Free Care Fund (to help defray medical expenses), IT teaching, and Medication Donation projects are also continuing and making wonderful progress at an annual cost of about $18,000.

8) A hydroponic/aquaponic demonstration project (or 2) and 2 small solar powered milk chillers (refrigerators) for local farmers are also in the works. Cost $12,000

All pretty cool, huh?  So when you’re feeling completely overwhelmed by COVID and economic downturns and racism, and Donald Trump, at least, I hope, I can brighten up your day a little.

Do we really have all the money for the above?  Well, between Cindy and me, Doug Williams, Don Hangen, and many other generous donors, we’re close to what we need.  But could use another $5,000 or so to be sure. 

As part of our fundraising, we are offering for sale commemorative Bridges to Malawi coins designed by Sue Fitzgerald, NP at $25 apiece if you pick it up at my house, 7 Curley Drive, Hudson, MA and $30 apiece if you want me to mail one to you. They are really cool!

Hope you are all well and staying safe.  My we all be vaccinated and fully employed and back in school and racially and economically just soon! 

All our best to all of you and thanks so much for all you past, present, and future help and participation in our worthy cause.


June 9, 2020

May 21, 2020

Just finished skyping with Peter Minjale.  We provided over $8,000 to help him prevent and combat COVID19.  New measures have included the purchase of masks and PPE for healthcare providers and masks for patients when they are being seen in St. Andrews Hospital and K2TASO clinic.  In addition Peter and his colleagues have been establishing hand washing stations in many villages and conducting educational workshops on the virus both for healthcare providers and villagers. As of today Malawi reports only 71 cases and 3 deaths.  Peter says they can test and he has not yet, thank God, seen anyone with the disease.  Some experts are saying that countries like Malawi, which have a very low proportion of people over 20, may do better than countries such as ours.

Peter also informs me that in the 10 or so villages we have provided Artemisia to there is almost no malaria!  This includes the village of Makanda, where we did our first IRS treatment all those years ago.  So the preventive tea made for the plant does work!  Unfortunately, malaria is still quite common in the villages where Artemisia has not yet been made available.  We hope to provide another 1500 plants this year.

Peter also sent me pictures of eggs (see agriculture section for pictures)  from donated chickens and told me he plans to buy 200 more chickens for our pass-on program in the next week or so.  He says we have so far helped provide extra income and protein for 35 families (approximately 245 people). Now we’ll be able to help 40-50 more families.

Peter also sent me pictures of Land Lease beneficiaries holding watermelons they grew from seed brought by us from the US (see pictures in the agriculture section).  Peter says one farmer got 9 watermelons off a single plan, averaging 12-17 kgs per melon(26- lbs).  He says that no one else is growing watermelons in the Kasungu East District besides our beneficiaries, but there is a great market and farmers can sell these for about $3-$4 apiece.  This is just one crop and one example of how we’re helping these poorest of the poor farmers.

Finally, the biggest news!  As we speak, we are in the process of purchasing 30 dairy heifers (mostly Holsteins) in Southern Malawi for our dairy project.  The Malawi Ministry of Agriculture is very excited about our initiative and is assisting us with the cow transport.  We hope to have the heifers transported to to our farm at Kasikidzi over the weekend.  Our staff will take all necessary precautions to avoid getting or bringing COVID19 to Mtunthama. In the next few months we will have finished constructing facilities for processing the milk (minus refrigeration, yogurt making, and pasteurizing , which we hope to donate in about 9 months, if we can raise enough money to do so (it’ll cost about $60,000 altogether).  The milk will provide protein and income for many farm families. (see pictures in agriculture)