7 days in the field, 7 Chichewa words

One week in the books! Embarrassingly I’ve only picked up seven Chichewa words in this time. But have¬†gained a lot of insight from visiting 14 villages in Blantyre Rural.

(Machinjiri, Malawi Photo by Gloria Guevara Alvarez)

I am traveling with four extremely talented Malawians who not only make the data collection possible but also getting through the long days with nonstop laughter. They’ve given me a Chichewa name – Pilireni, which I can actually pronounce quite well.

In Kuchombo a group of 4 to 7-year-old chatted me up, taught me my seven words and sang when I said them right. One girl was named Pilireni, so I told her that was my Chichewa name. It set off a giggle storm so I think they weren’t convinced.

In¬†Situwadi and Jamali the EPA group introducing us to village chiefs, one of whom was a woman, shared with us a new initiative that promotes sweet potato flour. Women are taught how to use this flour in place of maize flour or how to mix the two and produce bread and other staple meal items. I’ll return after data collection to check this out!


(Kunthembwe, Malawi Photo by Gloria Guevara Guevara)

On Thursday we visited Kunthembwe. The head court official met us at the courthouse — reminiscent of ancient Greek courthouses. Shortly thereafter there was an impromptu dance party near the water pump when women stopped to say hello.

In addition to the warm reception in the villages, our survey respondent’s have been incredibly gracious with their time and confirmed the good news that the harvest was good this year. Nonetheless, households are still struggling to make ends meet and many are looking to extension services and storing technology like Purdue Improved Crop Storage (PICS) bags. Yet, many are unaware of the options available. Some of the villages visited in Blantyre Rural are but 30 minutes from the city so it is interesting how little information is reaching these areas. It will be interesting to see how villages much farther away in Nsanje fair with extension news.

Departing for Chikwawa today and looking forward to the sunny and hot 31 C temps that await!