By Baba Kayinga
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.
On the first day of the practicum just after the classes on innovation systems and actor mapping we visited our market to observe innovations and map it.
As a Malawian I was amazed to see that our markets are full of innovations that I have never appreciated. The wooden bridges that connect the two major section of Tsoka Market (lizulu and kaunjika side) were the first innovations that I greatly admired.
The bridges were constructed by traders who saw that Lilongwe River was disconnecting the two sections of the market. Customers could go around using the main Lilongwe bridge which was time consuming and tiresome. But with the wooden bridges, customers and traders are able to walk from one market section to the other without spending much time and with reduced distance.
The owners collect 30 kwacha per person.
The other innovation that I saw is that water is used to keep the vegetables fresh. The vegetable traders do not have access to refrigerators and their vegetables are exposed to the sun light and higher temperatures in their benches.
The traders sprinkle water over the vegetables now and then to keep them fresh and prevent wilting. This reduces losses over time due to spoilage and decreased consumer acceptance.
On the second day when we were interviewing traders our team came a cross a fish trader who had made an innovation in packing cooking oil. The price of selling cooking oil in bottles is expensive to most customers, so he packs the cooking oil in small tubes so that small quantities can be sold at an affordable price.