By Emily Hale
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.
For a week we had walked past a man squatting in the fruit section of Area 25-A market.
It wasn’t until our last day in the market that we finally stopped and talked to Mr. Winston J. Gondwe. He provided us with his perspective on what was happening in the markets, and the challenges the market vendors are facing.
We asked him about the trash situation in the market, and he said he leads a group of three cleaners in Area 25-A market but insisted that it just isn’t enough. We invited him to the charrette (a design meeting involving market vendors, city council members, and students) that was taking place the next day and he was very eager and willing to attend.
The next morning Mr. Gondwe showed up to the charrette determined to find solutions to the problems facing the markets. During the discussion part of the charette Mr. Gondwe stood up and spoke to the city councilman telling him how he felt the council was failing at its duties in the markets, receiving applause from his fellow vendors. At the end of the week when my colleagues and I presented our findings to the city council and the mayor of Lilongwe, Mr. Gondwe was there.
Again he stood and spoke his mind addressing the mayor directly. Speaking for all market vendors Mr. Gondwe politely, and with no lack of strength pointed out all the ways the city council should be providing a better working environment for their vendors.
After having spent two weeks in the Lilongwe markets, I feel that the greatest thing we did was provide a setting where vendors and city council were able to interact and be heard.
This was made better by people like Mr. Gondwe who were willing to raise their voices, and speak their minds.