Surviving on casual labour after the floods

Piece works (ganyu) marks the number one trade for many people in Malawi, especially for those who cannot secure employment.

It is the occupation of many in cities and is highly plied in rural areas by both men and women.

Martias, a beneficiary of food stuff relief by Face Malawi

Casual labour is often an indication of family vulnerability—a strategy to cope during food shortages during the rainy or cultivation seasons- which often times restricts one’s own-farm production.

In Nsanje, especially this time when most fields have been washed away due to the floods- apart from looking to aid coming from different well-wishers- families still have to find their daily bread for survival.

Mercy Martias from Semba Village in Nsanje has not been spared the ganyu, she narrates how she is able to feed her family through the piecework.

“I do a few piece-works to feed my children. Even the time I was farming my own garden, I would still go into other farms for piece works,” she says.

All her sorghum went with the waters. To feed her children, she does all sorts of farm work, from making ridges, clearing land and picking cotton from other people’s fields.

She says she has a big family that she is raising and she needs money to buy food.

Martias is a single mother of five children as her husband walked out of the family.

Due to this year’s lack of harvest, Martias says she is worried that times are going to be harder for her and her children.

“Feeding my family is not easy, at the same time I have to pay school fees for some of them,” she says.

She adds that one wrote his Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) exams last year, he has 24 points, but can’t go to college as she cannot afford to send him.

She says there are no community colleges around where she could have sent him.

Apart from that, Martias has a son in Form Three and a daughter in Standard Eight who will also soon need school fees for her secondary education.

As she waits for the next cycle of rains to plant, Martias hopes that the rains will not be destructive.

She says her area is far from the river, so irrigation farming cannot work.

As hunger and poverty worsens, expectant 20-year-old Flora Tchenyela and a mother to a two-year-old child from the same village, says she and her husband also live on the hand to mouth basis.

They also lost their crops to the rains.

“We go into people’s fields to farm and to make money for food,” she says.

Despite the hard times for her as a pregnant woman, her husband makes sure she has enough food.

Both Martias and Tchenyela, are a fraction of the many vulnerable families in Malawi.

With the aftermath of the floods, the number of casual labourers may have risen as most of the affected people lost not their homes and livelihoods.

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