Title of research project: Maize production and social relations in rural Malawi
This research examined the factors affecting maize production in a lakeside village in rural Malawi. The research started with the problem of why villagers did not seem to grow adequate food for themselves and their families despite access to land. An initial inquiry suggested the problem was that villagers did not have access to fertiliser or labour, the land they farmed was too far away, and was unfertile. An examination of social relations within the village suggests the problem is more complex. Villagers are expected to give food, and sometimes money, away to those close to them - relatives, neighbours -or be considered antisocial. These displays of generosity lead to food running out very quickly. However, to not give money and food away to those in need risks social isolation, and the individual not being accepted as part of the fabric of the village. Excess wealth, or conversely no means to gain food or money, lead to the loss of social status and witchcraft is invoked to describe this severing of social support. 'Living well' in the village is the inverse of these two states. I argue that giving away scarce food, whilst leading to short term and intermittent hunger, is essential in a context of little to no state support, where one is reliant on ones neighbours and relatives for long term survival.
Project web site:
Dates of research - start date: 28/04/2014
Dates of research - end date (actual or anticipated):02/07/2014
Account of research carried out:
Title: Maize production and social relations in rural Malawi
The research focused on the pragmatic, political, economic and social reasons for a lack of maize production in a lakeside village, close to the trading centre of Malawi – Nkhotakota. The village consisted of roughly 250 households who subsisted mainly through maize and rice farming, as well as fishing in the lake. The village was 75% Sunni Muslim and the rest were Christian but despite their different religious backgrounds, cultural practices were homogeneous. The majority of people had primary school education but no secondary education as people had to pay for this and it was expensive. For a variety of economic,
political and environmental reasons, what rice and maize families manage to grow is rarely enough to see them through the year to the next harvest. Harvest
produce tended to last roughly 6 months. Ultimately, during the very impoverished periods, members of a household will eat roughly 3-4 days a week. The research aimed to explore the factors which affected maize production. The research question asked: what are the factors which impact maize production and sustained nutrition in rural Malawi?
Full paper can be found on our papers and presentations page