"Agriculture is the backbone of our country's economy" is one of the most overused phrases which best describe the important role which agriculture plays in our economy. Almost 80 percent of the population is comprised of farmers and almost 90 percent of the population depends on agriculture for livelihood and survival. Culture plays an important role even in agriculture. Cultural influences are visible in different farming practices across different parts of the country. For example, the Tumbuka people of Malawi are known for using hoes with very long handles when farming.
In other countries like Lesotho, culture also plays a very important role in agriculture. The Sesotho people, have a traditional calendar which is comprised of local names based on their environment and agriculture. The names of the months in the calendar portray a deep understanding and appreciation that the Basotho have for agriculture and nature. This calendar served as an essential tool for the survival of the Basotho people. It helped them on different issues affecting their farming practices, weather patterns and the environment. For instance, the first month of the year for this calendar is August and not January. August is traditionally named Phato which translates to dig, it symbolizes the preparation of barren fields for cultivation. Having August as the first month of the year is environmentally correct, the same can be said for several southern African countries where land clearing and preparation for the new season is done between the months of August and September.
In Malawi, the case is different, farmers use the Gregorian calendar. The names of the months to a local farmer are just foreign names and don’t signify anything. We celebrate a new year in January, which doesn’t make sense according to our farming calendar. Would it not be wise to come up with our Calendar, which has local names which make sense to the farmers? The Calendar would serve many purposes aside from just being a Calendar, it would be a tool that would help farmers and Malawians to be close to their nature and agriculture. It would also be used as a survival tool where it would serve as a reminder for the farmers to carry out farming practices at the right time, anticipate different weather pattern changes, and more.
The calendar would also help conserve our culture above everything else. We are slowly losing some of our languages. As such, some phrases, words will be completely be wiped out of our vocabulary in the years to come. The calendar would not just be a calendar it would be something of more significant value.
As an independent country, we are supposed to lose the colonial traditions, systems, and more which doesn't make sense to us. “Culture” is popularly defined as a way of life, as such it would make sense to see our culture in everything especially in areas and factors which are dominating. Having a Calendar that aligned with our environment, climate, and agricultural practices would help our farmers to be more conversant with their environment and climate as it relates to their farming practices and agriculture.