Malawi case is about informal learning among rural women affected by extremes of drought and dry spells. We target maize women farmers – maize being the staple crop and therefore would provide more learning possibilities.

We have so far conducted four community meetings involving women in the Lake Chilwa Basin. The first two meetings were awareness and the remaining two focused on generating informal learning processes on maize farming. So far, some formal learning processes such as those in Global Sasakawa have been challenged by women. Global Sasakawa is a practice widely promoted in Malawi where maize is grown as mono-crop but women feel the practice is heightening malnutrition.

malawi transgressive learning update

Maize farmers gather at a community meeting. This picture shows a women in her 90s.

In maize production, we found that informal learning practices occur in all stages from seed selection, determining planting time, traditional soil nutrient enrichment, pest and disease control up to and including storage. We were actually startled to learn that women and other ‘community members’ are using manure from old toilets and this practice is increasing.

In one meeting, women sang a song that sounded ‘A LEAD ndinyamuleni enawo atilepherrai’ (LEAD should lift us up because others have failed). The song means women are at the bottom of the league table due to some obstacles and require support in order to enhance their existing learning practices. LEAD should therefore lift them up through some learning process so that they realize their dreams. This will be the fore of our research – Lifting women up to the sky. We take this seriously as we continue to work together with these women.

The women agree that some of their informal learning tools could be improved, that is to say lifting them).

malawi transgressive learning update

Research assistant helps a woman sign using her thumb print

Some of our women participants are quite old actually but they are think tanks, ‘teachers’ and custodians of informal learning. Indeed, some are illiterate (See figure 1 of women using her thumb print as a signature).

Kindly also note that we discovered that informal learning research is a bit tricky but we went round this problem by identifying ‘informal knowledge parcels’. (These are very clear at community level). Using these parcels, we will then ‘lift women up’. We look forward to engaging in with the broader t-learning community towards further understanding about informal learning!