I have received a very warm welcome with my host mother and her neighbours doing everything they can to make me comfortable. The people here are warm and joyful, and frequently sing and dance to express their happiness.
However, they endure increasing hardship with many parents feeding a family of six children on about eight pounds a month or less. The farmers here predominantly grow maize, as well as rice and cassava. They rely on a single harvest to last them and their families a whole year, and sell the surplus at market.
Food is increasingly difficult to grow here thanks to the infertile soil, the rising costs of fertilizer, and a shortage of farm labour. People are given free farming land but it is located three kilometres away making it difficult to get to without transport.
The majority of villagers are Muslim and practice polygamy, meaning that men will often have two or three wives and up to twelve children. People often feel that having many children is desirable as they will care for them in their old age. However in the present the children need feeding and clothing.
Diseases such as malaria and HIV are rife and people do not always have access to clean drinking water. Villagers can receive free treatment at the local overstretched, understaffed government hospital but its distance makes it difficult to access for many people who may need to work to provide for their families that day.
Despite this the villagers work hard to take care of their families and will often rely on each other for support when times are hard. I am often surprised by how innovative and creative people are here. They can find a use for everything and nothing is wasted.