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Make Tawo: the door-to-door vegetable seller


Makewana's Daughters

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Makewana’s Daughters believe that stories are everywhere; sometimes they are written down, but there are also those stories which are shared verbally. We interviewed Make Tawo (Tawo’s mother), a vegetable seller in Zomba, who told us more about herself and her business.

 MD: So everyone calls you Make Tawo. What is your  given name?

MT (Laughs): My real name is Alinafe Bale. Of course, Bale is my husband’s name, so I’m actually Alinafe MD: So everyone calls you Make Tawo. What is your given name? MT (Laughs): My real name is Alinafe Bale. Of course, Bale is my husband’s name, so I’m actually Alinafe Kamanga. Where are you from? I am from Ulumba, Zomba. When my parents got married, they had two children; my brother and myself. Later on, they got divorced. Can you tell me something about your childhood? When I first started school, I really didn’t think it was important. But then, I gradually started getting good grades, I continued with school up until standard six. This was in the eighties and nineties. But then I became pregnant while I was still a pupil. So I quit school. During that time, there wasn’t a rule which allowed girls to back to school after getting pregnant. But I really wanted to go back to school. However, this was not possible. So I stayed at home and got married to the father of my children. How were you faring at the time? Well, we would get back early in the morning and go to the garden and would plant vegetables, onions and tomatoes. I would make sure to water the plants every day. After all, if you sit and do nothing, you won’t get anything, will you? No. Right. So you have to get up and work, and when you work the Good Lord will give you what you need. So what I do is to tend the plants, and when they are ready I sell them at Mpondabwino. Was this also the kind of life you led before getting married? No, back then I depended on my family for food. What did your mother do to put food on the table? She used to sell vegetables, like I do now. How many children do you have? I have four, the first one is Tawonga, born in 1995. It’s just unfortunate; things were tough for us at some point, otherwise he would have finished his Form Four by now. The second girl is Elinasi, a girl. She’s in Standard Seven, she was born in 1998. The third born is in Standard Six, born in 2003. The fourth born is in Standard One; she didn’t pass her exams. So those are my children. I have no intention of having any more. (Laughs) So tell me what a typical day would be like for you. I wake up at dawn, around four. I leave instructions to the older children to make porridge and I set off for the garden. After working at the garden, I take some of the vegetables I have been watering; they will be part of lunch. How many times do you water the garden? It’s usually twice a day. But sometimes, if you’re really determined, you can spend the entire day watering the garden; it’s vast. So I choose a side to water, my husband chooses the other side, and some of the children might water the other side. These tomatoes are from my garden, but I had to order the peas. Where do you order the peas from? From Zaone. So there are vegetables that you plant, and others that you order from elsewhere? Yes. It really depends on the seasons. As to how I plan my day, I can water the plants until lunch time, and then I go home and carry out household chores. Then in the evening I go back; this time it is not to water the land, but to make ridges. This is something that should normally be done in the morning, but I can’t do it then, because I am watering plants. It is not good to just be idle. What are the challenges that you meet? Oh, there are plenty. You know, you can order a basket full of vegetables, worth K3000, and then end up getting exactly K3000 after selling; that would mean there has been no profit. But then there are the good days; you order goods worth K3000 and you get a profit of K1500. So when you get home you save the K500 and you get to spend the K1000 (laughs). What does your husband do? Oh, he’s a farmer, too. It’s through farming that we have managed to send our children to school. What do you do in your leisure time? Well, I rest, and then I may either wash the children’s clothes or pound maize. Let’s say that on a particular day, you are not going to water the garden. You are going to sell vegetables. What time do you start off? One o’clock in the morning. There can be twelve of us, or five. It depends on the number of people you’ve agreed to start off with. You see, the roads in my area pose a lot of problems for us. Oh, you mean there are thugs? No, I’m talking about those who dabble in mischief, you know, like transforming themselves into animals. Really? Look, I once saw it happen. There was a day when I carried my basket with the help of my husband, I said bye to everyone at home and started off. I headed for my friend’s house, which is quite a distance away. So I have a dog, and I thought the dog was following me. Then I saw this huge cow where I had just passed, huge, I tell you, but with no horns. It was blocking the road. I screamed. By the time my husband around the thing had ran away. I had fallen and hurt myself. So yes, thieves may be there, but what we are really afraid of are the people who transform themselves into animals. Sometimes you can even see pigs at night. We walk together to sell our vegetables, but once we are here, we are no longer in groups. It depends on how quickly you can sell your goods. If you are done by noon, then you start off immediately for home, on your own. If you start off at 12, you arrive at six. On our way to town, we talk, make a lot of noise. We don’t have time to eat. But during the cold season, we carry matches, and sometimes sit around a fire before proceeding on our journey. Translated from Chichewa by Timwa Lipenga Kamanga.

Where are you from?

I am from Ulumba, Zomba. When my parents got married, they had two children; my brother and myself.  Later on, they got divorced.

Can you tell me something about your childhood?

When I first started school, I really didn’t think it was important. But then, I gradually started getting good grades, I continued with school up until standard six. This was in the eighties and nineties. But then I became pregnant while I was still a pupil. So I quit school.  During that time, there wasn’t a rule which allowed girls to back to school after getting pregnant. But I really wanted to go back to school. However,  this was not possible. So I stayed at home and got married to the father of my children.

How were you faring at the time?

Well, we would get back early in the morning and go to the garden and would plant vegetables, onions and tomatoes. I would make sure to water the plants every day. After all, if you sit and do nothing, you won’t get anything, will you?

No.

Right. So you have to get up and work, and when you work the Good Lord will give you what you need. So what I do is to tend the plants, and when they are ready I sell them at Mpondabwino.

Was this also the kind of life you led before getting married?

No, back then I depended on my family for food.

What did your mother do to put food on the table?

She used to sell vegetables, like I do now.

How many children do you have?

I have four, the first one is Tawonga, born in 1995. It’s just unfortunate; things were tough for us at some point, otherwise he would have finished his  Form Four by now. The second girl is Elinasi, a girl. She’s in Standard Seven, she was born in 1998. The third born is in Standard Six, born in 2003. The fourth born is in Standard One; she didn’t pass her exams. So those are my children. I have no intention of having any more. (Laughs)

So tell me what a typical day would be like for you.

I wake up at dawn, around four. I leave instructions to the older children to make porridge and I set off for the garden. After working at the garden, I take some of the vegetables I have been watering; they will be part of lunch.

How many times do you water the garden?

It’s usually twice a day. But sometimes, if you’re really determined, you can spend the entire day watering the garden; it’s vast. So I choose a side to water, my husband chooses the other side, and  some of the children might water the other side. These tomatoes are from my garden, but I had to order the peas.

Where do you order the peas from?

From Zaone.

So there are vegetables that you plant, and others that you order from elsewhere?

Yes. It really depends on the seasons. As to how I plan my day, I can water the plants until lunch time, and then I go home and carry out household chores. Then in the evening I go back; this time it is not to water the land, but to make ridges. This is something that should normally be done in the morning, but I can’t do it then, because I am watering plants. It is not good to just be idle.

What are the challenges that you meet?

Oh, there are plenty. You know, you can order a basket full of vegetables, worth K3000, and then end up getting exactly K3000 after selling; that would mean there has been no profit. But then there are the good days; you order goods worth K3000 and you get a profit of K1500. So when you get home you save the K500 and you get to spend the K1000 (laughs).

What does your husband do?

Oh, he’s a farmer, too. It’s through farming that we have managed to send our children to school.

What do you do in your leisure time?

Well, I rest, and then I may either wash the children’s clothes or pound maize.

Let’s say that on a particular day, you are not going to water the garden. You are going to sell vegetables. What time do you start off?

One o’clock in the morning. There can be twelve of us, or five. It depends on the number of people you’ve agreed to start off with. You see, the roads in my area pose a lot of problems for us.

Oh, you mean there are thugs?

No, I’m talking about those who dabble in mischief, you know, like transforming themselves into animals.

Really?

Look, I once saw it happen. There was a day when I carried my basket with the help of my husband, I said bye to everyone at home and started off. I headed for my friend’s house, which is quite a distance away.  So I have a dog, and I thought the dog was following me. Then  I saw this huge cow  where I had just passed, huge, I tell you, but with no horns. It was blocking the road. I screamed. By the time my husband around the thing had ran away. I had fallen and hurt myself. So yes, thieves may be there, but what we are really afraid of are the people who transform themselves into animals. Sometimes you can even see pigs at night.

We walk together to sell our vegetables, but once we are here, we are no longer in groups. It depends on how quickly you can sell your goods. If you are done by  noon, then you start off immediately for home, on your own. If you start off at 12, you arrive at six.

On our way to town, we talk, make a lot of noise. We don’t have time to eat. But during the cold season, we carry matches, and sometimes sit around a fire before proceeding on our journey.

Translated from Chichewa by Timwa Lipenga

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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