We can assure you that a change of pace the past 10 days did not mean we were just sitting around. We began the process of applying for water and electric, purchasing a used 20ft. shipping container to secure our equipment on site, purchased a 3-ton truck for hauling materials, met with our architect to finalize layout and much more. It was nice to not have to manage the construction on site everyday, but now we are back at it.
After much driving to track down the TA, numerous visits to government offices, and an impromptu speech at a village meeting we were finally given the 'OK' to continue building our perimeter fence and finishing up the storage shed. A recent strike by most government employees certainly hasn't sped things along, and it has us a bit concerned about the potential for more delays in the near future...but that's building in Malawi.
Dr. Manary arrived on Saturday (Feb. 16). His presence has helped to push things along, but it has also kept us on our toes. Often casual evening conversations at Kabula Hill (where we live) turn into work meetings as we discuss the project, vehicle and house maintenance, and how things get done in Malawi. Of course we are grateful for the tips and advice he sends our way.
There's not too much more to report at this time. We are off to facilitate the delivery and placement of our shipping container. If you have specific questions feel free to post them on the comments and we will do our best to respond. I'm sure we don't cover everything in these posts that people may be curious about, so feel free to ask anything or request certain photos. For us things have begun to feel routine, so we may overlook certain aspects of our experience that you would find interesting.
**Please bare with us as we figure out how to create blog posts that allow people to comment. I think from now on we will try to post on the "Blog" tab of our site.
Friday offered our first, and most certainly not last, setback with regards to construcion. As I'm sure is the case in many African countries, Malawi has municipal government alongside a more traditional system of chiefs. While we have the legal right to build a production facility on the plot of land we own near Lunzu, our contacts here in Blantyre advise that we also receive permission from the Traditional Authority (TA). On Friday we went to meet with the TA along with Lynda (production manager at current factory) and our supply shed/fence contractor Mr. Luphale. We were told to wait in the car for fear that our white skin would result in the TA asking for more money from us. Unlike most permits and licenses which have a set fee, receiving the blessing of the TA requires a negotiable sum of money. We've heard that we may be asked to pay between K6,000 and K15,000 (which is roughly $16.50 - $41.50) when all is said and done.
Apparently the TA had some concerns about our factory, like pollution and location compared to other factories nearby. Of course chiponde production doesn't produce much pollution, but you can't argue with the TA. The TA asked that we stop any further construction until he meets with the District Council this coming week to sort the matter. We've been told that by Friday at the latest we should get the go ahead. Of course this being Malawi, we aren't getting our hopes up.
After our meeting we returned to the building site to inform the 50+ builders and casual laborers currently working for us of the news. They were understandably dismayed at the prospect of a week without work but we made sure to pay them for the weeks worth of work.
While we certainly hope the delay won't last too long, the hold allows us to catch our breath a bit. We still have plenty of other things we can work on - finalizing the building layout, figuring out transport and security of our newly purchased concrete mixer and vibrator, making additional connections, etc.
Enjoy the photos! Soon we'll try to post more than just building site pics.