Stolen tomatoes may be troublesome, but it beats worrying about violence, oppression

Mrs. Joseph selling tomatoes at a market in Lilongwe, Malawi.
Mrs. Joseph selling tomatoes at a market in Lilongwe, Malawi.

By Emily Linden

Editor’s note: Students from Michigan State University and the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources are exploring frugal market innovations in Malawi. This is one of their reports.

Mrs. Joseph carries water every day from home to keep her tomatoes fresh at the market because there isn’t a working tap.  She inherited the spot she sells on from her mother and has been there ever since.

She originally sold flour but was priced out by the vendors with scales that could charge specific amounts for specific rates.  She simply couldn’t compete.  She sits on the committee for the tomato section and meets with the other women on the committee every once in a while to set a price so that everyone is making the same profit and it’s fair.

She remembers when Malawi was a military dictatorship and doesn’t feel as if it is her place to tell the City Council what their place in the market should be.  She’s just happy to have a free place to sell her products where she doesn’t have to worry about violence or government oppression.

Sometimes a few tomatoes are stolen here or there overnight but she thinks this is just a part of selling in the market.  It’s a problem for sure, but there are worse things.

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