Small-Scale Urban Food Trade in Lilongwe

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The traditional food sector in cities of the global south are an important forum for urban livelihoods, and critical to providing broad access to food for urban residents. In this video, researchers follow legume trader, Ruth Ndingo, as they explore the traditional food provisioning and exchange environment in Lilongwe, Malawi.


Researchers: Jessica Kampanje-Phiri, Judith Kamoto, Fanny Chilera, Agnes Mwangwela, Max Thondolo
Written & Directed by: Kirk Mason
Camera/Editing: Kirk Mason
Starring: Ruth Ndingo
Executive Production: MSU Center for Regional Food Systems & Global Center for Food Systems Innovation


Video Transcription:

Ruth Ndingo: My name is Ruth. I stay here in 23, but I do my business at the Lilongwe Market. And I sell there beans, dry beans and fresh beans. And now we are going to Mchesi to buy dry beans here. I do the same work here to sell the beans, those I'm going to buy today.

A lot of the food provisioning in exchange in cities is done informally, just sort of on this individualized level. It's highly decentralized, and it provides a livelihood for a lot of people. I think that, often, the value of that is sort of dismissed, because people are working in the informal sector. They're not well organized. It's individualized. They don't have sort of any mechanisms for advocating for themselves. But these people are feeding cities.

Ndingo: Four thousand.
How much is a kg?
These are 370, and these are 400.
Ndingo: Oh.

We, as outsiders, can sort of bring our perspectives and our tools to figuring out how the city food system can adapt and grow so that people have better access to food moving forward, and so that those livelihoods are supported, because they're really important in terms of feeding cities.

We'll just go now. We should pay this one. Well give him 100 Kwacha.

It's a good day, because we take --there's not any problem I get here today. I'm satisfied with it. I bought red beans and white beans for 7,000, for 7,700, and I'm going to sell those beans. I don't know the profit I can get yet. I don't know how it's going on in the business. Now after just buying fresh beans, we are just going to buy dry beans at Kawali. I'm taking the business to Tsoka Market.

Genscher Mbwabwa: Small and medium trade in Lilongwe, enterprise trade actually, here it's flourishing. However, as a council, it becomes very difficult for us to monitor the trend, as to the growth each year, the growth or else maybe the challenges those people are meeting, because we really don't have that particular mechanism whereby we are able to follow up on such issues.

Some of the common problems that they're dealing with are storage issues. A lot of times, they have to haul their legumes back and forth to the market. People sort of pile into the backs of these trucks. Everybody's responsible for moving their beans back and forth, and so the traders are bearing the cost of that, both in terms of the transport cost and time away from markets.

Read the full Small-Scale Urban Food Trade in Lilongwe Transcript

 

Author(s): Kirk Mason, Stephanie White, Mike Hamm
Date: October 27, 2015