We spent the day in Mpingu, a village jus outside of Lilongwe. This was our second village visit in Malawi, and we were welcomed by a beautiful chorus sung by a group of women just inside the village gates. We were greeted by both the chief of the village and his wife with handshakes and broken Chichewa greetings. My Chichewa is getting better and now people understand enough to laugh at my poor pronunciation and word usage. Chichewa is a beautiful language used throughout Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique and is very similar to its sister Bantu language, Swahili that is spoken in Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, and Tanzania.
After we were welcomed into the village we were showed to our seats, simple wooden chairs situate inside a small plot of land surrounded by a bamboo fence. Men and women sat around us on the ground, shaking our hands and smiling at us.
The drip irrigation training started shortly, with everything explained in Chichewa to the villagers (mostly people who do not know English). Most African countries are populated with rural villagers, people living in small communities of 100-200 people where everyone is a farmer. The men grow cash crops of maize, soy, and beans while the women grow tomatoes, onions, garlic, peppers, carrots, pumpkins, and different kinds of lettuce greens in their backyard.
I would say one of the most difficult challenges that Andrew and I have faced here in Malawi is the lack of food and crop variety. I can list on my hands and feet all the crops that are grown here. A few products such as apples and crackers are imported from Kenya and South Africa, but besides that there is not much variety in the products available here.
I amazed at how much you can do (the variety of foods that you can cook) with such few crops, although 99 percent of the time people choose to eat nsima and relish (usually pumpkin leaves). Our purpose in taking these village visits is to observe how technologies are distributed in rural Africa. We are specifically working with the distribution of agricultural skills because at this moment in time the entire country of Malawi revolves around agriculture.
(Below: Andrew’s post)
We went to a local village today called Mpingu where we were able to meet several lead farmers and ADOs who were attending our drip irrigation training. It was really fun!
When we first arrived at the training area we could hear many voices of the village women welcoming us to Mpingu. We were given an honorary welcome and introduced by Ben. They thought it funny that I knew Ndadzuka bwanji and greeted them accordingly haha. Fun how speaking the local language (even just a couple words) makes people happy.
During the training Kylie and I watched for characteristics from the innovators DNA (a framework for identifying innovative characteristics in people) in the lead farmers who attended. It was pretty interesting to gauge what people felt they did that was innovative, as well as what they felt would benefit them down the road.
We left the training late, excited for the chance to finally work with data! I spent part of my evening assisting Kylie and entering data into the spreadsheet while she worked on her paper.