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Visiting Manyamula Village

Updated: Jul 8, 2020

Last week was SIA Board Member Kathleen King’s first visit to a Malawian village. I appreciated her new-comer observations on what she saw in Manyamula. Here is her post:

We spent the last five days in a rural village called Manyamula, Malawi. Our partners here help run a savings and loans cooperative (meaning community members can buy shares in this cooperative and then can receive loans at rates way lower than Malawian banks offer). They may use these loans to improve their home, buy seeds, or to help with daily needs if times are tough. Many people in this village belong to the cooperative because it acts as a support system and ally for the residents.

Part of the team! Winkly, Baxter, Matthews, Kathleen and Cannan.

We are staying in rooms that the cooperative built with grant money from SIA. Usually they rent these rooms to vocational students for income for the cooperative. They have worked hard to make our stay as comfortable as possible! My room is fancy compared their norm, and I have it all to myself. There is an outhouse bathroom which is also fancier than the normal hole in the ground you see at most homes.

The toilet

Every morning and evening Jane fetches water at a bore hole well about 100m from here (there is no running water in the village). She heats it on a fire and brings the bucket to a bathing room for me to take a splash bath.

The three women that cooked all my meals and heated all my water!

Often for breakfast we have donuts (called mandasi), tea, sweet potatoes and maybe roasted ground nuts (peanuts). For lunch and dinner we have a staple called nsima, (made from corn flour), as well as a vegetable (kale or another green), rice, and a meat (chicken or goat). They estimate that a person needs about 6 bags of maize/corn per year in order to be food secure. So a family of 5 that has 30 bags of corn after harvest in May will be set for the staple food for the year.

Canaan, our host, with the breakfast layout!

When someone greets you, they give you a special handshake. This happens not just the first time you meet someone, but any time people greet each other.

They say thank you often! They use the words for Thank you in their greeting, after you say anything, and when leaving.

Some differences:

  • There are no garbage cans because there is so little waste here. You wash your hands before a meal, often use you hands to eat, and then just wash them again. All utensils, cloths, and containers are reusable. Unfortunately in the marketplace small plastic bags are used to hold many goods so they are littering the area.

  • I haven’t seen any mirrors.

  • There is very little electricity in the village, so the stars are amazing.

Manyamula sunset. No tall buildings block the view!

  • Most women wear a piece of cloth tied around their waist called a Chitenje.

  • As soon as the sun peaks over the horizon (around 6am), people are up and so are the roosters (not ideal for those of us who love to sleep!). It gets dark around 6pm and then some people have solar lamps that light their homes.

  • Everyone here has been very kind. Malawi is called the “Warm Heart of Africa.”

  • There is very little crime in the rural parts, but they hired a couple security guards for the area at night while we’re here because they said people are less predictable when a white person or ŵazungu comes to town.

  • There are goats and chickens wandering everywhere.

  • Livestock is their best investment.

  • Some people have bikes, a few have a car, but everyone walks everywhere, at all hours. It is typical to be miles from home and see people walking on the road in the pitch black.

There are a million other little things I could tell you! Hopefully that gives a better idea of the village.

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