By Chad Binder
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.
Applying for the Frugal Innovation Program, I knew I would be investing myself as an entity in efforts to open a space for change in the informal markets of Malawi. After spending my time with the
Malawian people, with the vendors, with the land and what it bears, now, it is apparent that I was to become more invested in more than purely the markets.
With this investment I’ve made, naturally, comes interest. After this investment in the current and future state of the markets that I have made along with my fellow MSU and LUANAR students to become agents of change, not only the markets well-being is close to me.
Not that before I came I wasn’t concerned with what constraints their people face, but being here and involved daily changes my attitude.
I learned more than the markets conditions were affecting me when I was heading to class one morning. As I walked past a group of LUANAR students, something was different about the usual warm Mwadzuka Bwanji (Good Morning) greeting as they were awfully focused on their conversation. At the time, I didn’t think much of the interaction.
During class, city council member Gensher M’bwabwa spoke to the class of plans to increase revenue and make a greater space for the markets we were investigating. He ended his presentation, opened the floor for questions, and, overall, there was a null to the room.
Time passed and I learned the logistics of LUANAR’s program were being debated. As we were all investing our time in this project, I can see how when you’re unsure of the programs investment in you, it can shake you. What interested me the most, though, was this feeling of concern.
Although being a part of MSU made this not directly affect me, I felt its influence through other means. I felt it through their confusion. I felt it through their apprehension. I felt it through their attitudes. So much so, I wanted to open the floor to discuss and resolve. But as I had no control or knowledge of the situation, it was best for me to stay out of the discourse.
With faith in our leaders, we quickly made it past the miscommunications and continued with our project. Feeling frustrated, as Dr. White says, is a part of the task.