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Lockdown diaries: from Oxford to Lilongwe

Written by Emma Huntly, Head of Partnerships and Impact at Belu.

Like many people lucky enough to have a garden in lockdown, it became a place of sanctuary for me. As many of us were forced to slow down and appreciate nature, I planted lots more veggies than ever before and managed to improve upon last year’s lone courgette plant by adding radish, climbing French beans, strawberries and pumpkins. A new puppy unfortunately took pride in trampling the sunflowers for my daughter’s science project…but I think the less said about that the better!

The fundamental thing in growing plants is to water them. In this country, we are lucky enough to turn on the tap from inside, or in this case outside, our own homes to get water to fill a watering can. That’s not the case for many people around the world as shockingly, one in ten people still do not have access to clean, safe water.

In many ways lockdown cut away at our social connections limiting the people we can spend time with, but at the same time solidified them in new ways. Sharing shopping with newly befriended neighbours has been a highlight, for example. By very definition a pandemic is global and reminds us how small this world is. Covid-19 has been felt across the world and as we are more aware than ever about the importance of hygiene, the work of WaterAid comes into a sharper focus.

Gardening: from Oxford to Lilongwe

Dennis is the WaterAid Voices from the Field Officer in Malawi. I had the chance to meet him earlier this year here in the UK to thank many of our amazing customers for supporting Belu and to learn about the specific challenges that communities in Malawi are experiencing in relation to water and sanitation.

It turns out, he and I have both channelled our lockdown frustrations into gardening. In his video lockdown diary from Lilongwe  Dennis says:

“I’ve set up this garden so we can have vegetables to eat in this pandemic but also to have something to do and keep your sanity levels in check”

Just as Dennis talks about setting up his garden as a chance to focus on something outside of the house and distract yourself from the confines of living in lockdown, so it was for me. Dennis and I are both lucky to have access to clean water to wash our hands and water our seeds. Being able to wash your hands easily should be something everyone can do.

As we come out of lockdown here in the UK, I am grateful to start to return some kind of ‘normal’ life. I’m grateful that lockdown made me feel part of a community of growers all the way from here to Lilongwe.  I hope we continue to learn from and act on this positive feeling of global connection.

Now, any ideas on what to do with approximately 3,000 courgettes?


Belu has been partnered with WaterAid since 2011 and has contributed over £5million so far to transform lives worldwide with clean water. You can find out more about our partnership here.

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