A multiple-choice question from Malawi

You are a small-scale farmer in rural Malawi. How would you prefer to sell the maize (corn) you harvest?

  1. Directly from the field for 15¢ per kg
  2. Milled into flour for 61¢ per kg

I promise it’s not a trick question. Clearly, the answer is (b); the value added by a mill is huge, without requiring too much more work! When Boyd and I visited Manyamula village in 2011, they told us that the closest maize mill was over the border in Zambia and so all that value added was being taken away from their village and given to the next village to the west.

The presence of the mill in their village means that women can spend a short time waiting and get increased value for their family's crops.

The presence of the mill in their village means that women can spend a short time waiting and get increased value for their family’s crops.

That is, it was until the beginning of this year when the Manyamula Village Savings and Loans cooperative, MAVISALO, got their milling and shelling machines up and running! The original proposal was for one maize mill but the savvy cooperative leaders were able to use the Spirit in Action Community Grant funds to buy two mills, one for shelling and the other for grinding, because of the devalued local currency.

Shared Ownership

Now, the members of MAVISALO own the mills cooperatively and all are responsible for making sure they are cleaned, maintained, and guarded. As a result, Canaan Gondwe, MAVISALO leader says that, “there is increased relations strengthening the cohesion amongst the members. As members interact to discuss issues of the mill project, there is a lot of mutual sharing of ideas and experiences.”

MAVISALO members work together to plant the maize sheller machine.

MAVISALO members work together to plant the maize sheller machine.

This collective ownership also means that all members have access to the mills for a small use fee. Of course the fees aren’t going to some corporate CEO, but rather they are given back to the cooperative for their loan fund, to provide local, low-interest loans to village members for businesses, school fees, medical emergencies, or house repairs. So far, the maize mills fees have increased MAVISALO’s loan capital by just over $500.

The generosity of MAVSIALO members continually amazes me; a percentage of the profit generated by the mill is diverted to a social fund to provide assistance for widows and village members who are living with HIV/AIDS.

Local leadership = Local impact

The latest report from Canaan and the group confirmed that the mills are making an impact on the families of MAVISALO members, “Our biggest success has been that the maize (which is the staple food) and other grain crops are being processed at reasonable costs.”

The milling machine grinds the maize into flour to make the staple food, Nsima.

The milling machine grinds the maize into flour to make the staple food, Nsima.

By collectively choosing the answer (b), Manyamula village members themselves are driving this process of reducing poverty and building a stronger society. Together they:

  • Prepared grant proposal
  • Purchased mills locally
  • Secured a safe storage place for the mills from the local leaders
  • Collectively use and care for the mills
  • Reap the benefits of higher profits on their crops together
  • Produce local feed for chickens, cows, and pigs
  • Increase loan fund for low-interest loans
  • Build local leadership

It is a pleasure to support such a wonderful, community-based organization! Good work, MAVISALO!

Related stories about MAVISALO:

Some MAVISALO members wearing their matching t-shirts to show solidarity in the community.

Some MAVISALO members wearing their matching t-shirts to show solidarity in the community.

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6 Responses to “A multiple-choice question from Malawi”

  1. Boyd July 16, 2013 7:34 pm
    #

    This is wonderful news! The maze mill will surely bring greater prosperity to the region. And I am glad MAVISALO was able to purchase both mills!

  2. Barbara Neighbors Deal July 16, 2013 8:07 pm
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    This mill is a bridge into the future for this village. People will raise enough maize for their own family, sell the balance in milled form at a greater profit, make more food and livestock food available for their neighbors to buy at less cost — the mill floats everybody’s boats. The profits will pay school fees and there will likely be enough to educate the girls as well as the boys. And THAT is the bridge into the future. One very small investment of funds, one very big investment of planning and learning and sharing amongst the villagers — and in one generation: education, improved housing, improved nutrition, and vital aid to the least in their own community. This is a brilliant project, and a model for many more.

  3. Dennis July 17, 2013 12:56 am
    #

    An inspiring story. Thanks, Tanya.

  4. Binladenindustries@gmail.com July 30, 2013 9:46 am
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    I’m from south africa, planning to come and open up this business in few villages in malawi, can someone please call me 0027714417863. And explain me the daily profit margin on grinding maize for the people over there. How many kwachas will i make on an average day. If any1 interested in working together with me, please get back to me as well, thanks, am hoping to receive call from you guys soon.

  5. Binladenindustries@gmail.com July 30, 2013 9:50 am
    #

    Or email me on binladenindustries@gmail.com

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. In just 4 days... | Spirit in Action International - July 1, 2014

    […] I’m so excited to see the change that has taken place since we were there in 2011. Back then, Manyamula village didn’t have any electricity – light came through objects with batteries or through solar power. Now, many homes have benefitted from a rural electrification program, which I’m sure has changed life for the better! We’ll get to see MALVISALO’s maize mills and new motorbike! […]

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