On my iPod I have a song called ‘Everybody is free to wear sunscreen’ by Baz Luhrmann. In this song it says “…..accept certain inevitable truths - prices will rise, politicians will flounder”
But when you can’t feed your families or send your children to school - how can you accept these inevitable truths?
From my short stay in Malawi, I have listened to the people around me in Mzimba. Their main problem is their lack of money due to inflation. I can see people struggling to cope with basic needs. Every day I hear again and again “Everything is toooo expensive”
Inflation has risen to 37.9% in February of this year. We are struggling in the UK to cope with the 4% rise in January - I can’t begin to imagine how individual Malawians are coping with their rise. Patrick from Lilongwe, when I asked him what his dreams were, said he had “….no hope for the future” and he accepted this. In the west, would we accept this.
Agriculture is the most important sector of the Malawian economy and employs about 80% of the workforce. Everybody I meet here seems to be a farmer. Many do this in addition to thier job to meet basic needs. This year’s crop of maize has been appalling, due to a very dry rainy season. Usually a small field will produce 5kg each harvest but people will be lucky to get 2kg of this year.
1kg of maize can earn you MK200 (about 30p). People depend on maize for basic food security, to make simple nsima (maize porridge), which is a vital part of people’s diets. With less maize, which will be more expensive, people are expected to go hungry in the month of November.
Justin earns MK 480 a day as a guard and works 11 hours a day. When he finally gets home, he cannot rest, as he has to work on his farm, so he can provide for his wife, his sister, his mother and eight children. This year he is very worried he will not be able to meet the needs of his family, as he has had a bad harvest.
This is why the work we are doing here is so important. We are working with Progessio and Tovwirane, (a non-governmental organization based in Mizmba). They have introduced a Village Savings and Loans programme within many rural communities, working mainly with women, to empower them and give them some financial control.
The groups’ main challenges are market diversity, travel costs and book keeping. We are teaching basic business skills to the groups, helping them to look at making and selling a range of products, creating simple saving books and teaching them how to keep records.
This is an inevitable truth.
It’s about giving people control in uncertain times. It’s not about giving people money.
Blog written by Ruth Clayden
Photos by Ruth Clayden and Catherine Batey
Photo 1: Village Saving and Loans group at Mnthonje village, learning about SWOT analysis
Photo 2: Bean Harvest