By Megan Vaughan
This account of the 1949 famine in colonial Malawi employs a wide selection of old assets, starting from Colonial place of work documentation to the songs of girls who lived in the course of the tragedy. The research of the factors and improvement of the famine takes the reader via an in depth agricultural and social historical past of Southern Malwai within the 19th and 20th centuries, focusing specifically at the nature of social and monetary stratification, adjustments in kinship structures and the location of girls and putting all this in the wider context of the impression of colonial rule.
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Additional resources for The Story of an African Famine: Gender and Famine in Twentieth-Century Malawi
12 The iQ4g famine 31 Drought for the European population of Blantyre meant the inconvenience of not being able to water the garden. The Nyasaland Times announced the cancellation of the usual annual round of gardening competitions. But as employers of labour, Europeans soon became more centrally involved in the crisis. All employers were instructed to encourage their workers to concentrate on replanting their crops, and to plant new root-crop gardens (Nyasaland Times, vol. 52, no. 3, 13/1/49, p.
Even within the predicted 'famine areas', however, there were variations in food availability when the Blantyre District ulendo reports were written in March (MNA, NSB 7/4/1, Blantyre District Ulendo Reports, 1946—9). In NA Mlauli's area it seemed that villagers would be able to live on the crops they had harvested, without buying food, until at least mid July. In the neighbouring area of NA George, new gardens had been opened during the year, a reasonable crop had been harvested, and villagers had seed in reserve to be planted in the event of late rains falling.
One man who had money remitted from a son working in Southern Rhodesia, walked to Ntcheu and bought two bags (each containing 200 lbs) which lasted him and his family for about two months. 20 Another man was a tailor from Blantyre for whom business had dried up, but who did have some money saved up. 21 A woman whose husband was insane and incapable of travel, joined a group of people going west from the valley to Neno and Mwanza. She had no money so she worked in other people's gardens in order to earn a small basket of maize.