Thursday, 4 July 2013

You are most welcome

Today, I went to the second village in Lilongwe District and met with the village head and one of the four farmers I will be interviewing there.

The village head seemed like a lovely, kind and very welcoming man. It seemed he'd even dressed up in one of his best golden yellow shirts and put a suit on to greet us! We had a very good interview and got lots of helpful information, which supports some of my theories about the key challenges facing the Farm Input Subsidy Programme in Malawi. He was very inviting and even offered for us to share Nsima with his family afterwards, though unfortunately we had to get on but may take up the offer tomorrow if there's time. He even brought a bag of groundnuts out to the driver who was waiting in the car.

After the interview I saw some boys playing with a tyre and a stick (something that's quite common here). They hit the tyre with the stick to roll it along the road. I asked if I could take a picture because this is one of the common sights you can see in the villages and on the roads. They were all so amazed and excited to see this alien contraption which, they saw when I showed them, had captured them on a piece of glass.

After some fruit and bread and butter for lunch we headed off to interview the first farmer. She was a very elderly lady (she was married at the time that Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda was in power, which was from independence in 1964). She actually seemed very tired during the interview and, as she had never been to school, didn't understand much of what was being said, even in Chichewa. We had to adapt some questions by using sticks on the floor to explain. Although it might be thought that this wasn't a helpful interview, it actually was very useful as I got to see the experience of an elderly lady who is also very frail and requires support. It made me wonder whether actually she should be receiving other kinds of social support rather than the fertiliser subsidy as she was not even able to tend to some of her land due to a disability the previous season. In any case, the support she did receive through the subsidy programme had saved her from hunger as she was at least able to grow maize.
You can fit more on a Malawian bicycle than you
 can in a family car

Donkey transport

The one time she did perk up was when we heard some screams from the children and people started to run, to their homes, partly smiling but a little frightened. Three nyao were running through the villages (basically young boys in masks, but they are feared here). Thankfully the lady we were with was also trained in the tradition and so could speak to them in their language and they knew to pass through and not stop at her house. It sounds quite scary and for many people it is, but really they are young children playing around who get offerings from people in the village such as locally brewed beer. It was quite an experience nonetheless. Apparently they are very scared of donkeys and cows so do not dare go near them.

After the interview we went back to thank the village head and headed back home, having had a successful day in the field. Tomorrow we will try and finish the last three interviews in the village.

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