For Chapter 2 click here: Chapter 2
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(Author’s note: This chapter has multiple pages. Please click the number at the bottom to continue reading the next page)
After two months without enough food Demond stole a basket of fruits from his neighbor and didn’t feel guilty. He was learning some tricks from his best friend Nanji, who always dressed well and had a carefree manner.
“Have you ever been hungry?” Demond asked Nanji once.
“Sometimes, and you?”
“Yes. This year’s been bad.”
They met on his father Akua’s farm, huddled in a faraway corner to smoke cigarettes. Demond had no idea where Nanji got the cigarettes. Nanji talked about how he made money on the street by picking pockets of visitors and tourists on busy streets.
“How’d you do that?” Demond asked.
“It’s easy. You’ve to act and move fast.”
Demond wasn’t sure he wanted to do that. But he saw how his friend was resourceful in getting what he wanted.
Akua Ibori owned a small farm on the outskirts of Zomba, Malawi, where he grew corn. He was a subsistence farmer, meaning he grew corn for consumption and earn a living. The farm wasn’t big, one hectare (two acres) maybe. He had inherited it from his father. Not being educated, that’s all Akua had to support himself, his wife Bayo and three children — two boys Demond and Badru and a girl Abebi. Demond was fourteen, Badru five and Abebi was two years old.
When rains were plentiful the corn crop was good. The Ibori family used part of it to make Nsima, the porridge like dish. The surplus was sold to traders. That brought in money to buy vegetables to eat with the Nsima. Meat such as fish and chicken were expensive. They used it sparingly. Akua got frustrated when he couldn’t buy enough fertilizers, so he used cow manure instead. He wasn’t knowledgeable about the correct time to plant the seeds. If the planting was soon after a brief period of rain the yield wouldn’t be good. He didn’t know that planting seed after a few days of good soaking rain was better for a good yield. Even in the year when the yield was good the six months or so between planting and harvesting were tough. The Ibori family had to make do with very little produce that was available or stay without food. They ate only one meal a day or nothing at all, during this period. Akua didn’t know what to do.
When this happened Demond got miserable. He got mad at his dad and mom, like it was their fault.
Akua regretted that he didn’t attend school or learn a trade. He was happy helping his father in tending the field. When the responsibility to manage the farm fell on him he realized how important it was to be able to read and write, and to conduct business with people outside his family.
“I’d like Demond to go to school, and earn lots of money. I don’t want him to lead a life like ours,” he said to Bayo when the children were not around. He would sit with his chin in his palms, staring at something far away.
“How’re we going to do that?” Bayo asked.
“There’s always a way.”