My dad had always been someone who would invite people from different backgrounds to come back home. He used to take care of a lot of his siblings’ kids, so I had a very big extended family. Being in that kind of environment, I began to realize there’s more to people than what you see. I began understanding people better because I was with people all the time. I had always been interested to see how family situations shaped the life of a young person. That’s how I became really interested in young people, learning what young people love, and what they do.
Living in an extended family and being able to associate with different people from the church and the community made me unconsciously curious to know more about people once I met them.
During the early part of my life, I grew up in a rural area in Malawi. Back then, we had no electricity, but it was an exciting part of my life because that’s when I connected with people the most. After that, I moved into the capital city because my dad got a job there, and that’s when we got electricity. My dad would always say, “I would sell everything in this house if it means I have to pay for your school fees. We can live on the street as long as you go to school. What you have to do is not worry about fees, go to school, work hard, and I’ll take care of the rest of it.”
My mom is one of my number one inspirations because when she got married to my dad, she dropped out of school. Then, after she gave birth to all of us and took care of us, she decided to go back to school after 20 years. She’s really inspirational to me and is one of the people who believes in me, even when I don’t. Their support gave me a drive to keep on going forward. I knew that not only did these people have high expectations of me, but they also believed that I could do it and were able to provide any other support. After that, I started catching up in school, and was studying a lot.
When we lived in the rural area, the kinds of disparities in our school were shocking. I was privileged in that area because my dad was a high school teacher. I would find that some of my friends weren’t able to go to school because they had to go to the farm, and their parents didn’t know the value of education. They had to fight for themselves to get something to eat. I realized that this was connected to agriculture because most of the families in Malawi rely on agriculture: that’s their number one form of income. If parents are not producing enough back home, then that leads to all sorts of problems. Although the agriculture sector is 80% of our economy because most people rely on agriculture, there is still a lack of young people in this sector. Right now, the average farmer in Malawi is 65 years old and the life expectancy in Malawi is 64 years. An average farmer in Malawi is supposed to be dead one year ago, which is not sustainable at all.
This lack of sustainable agriculture really opened up my mind when I was trying to choose my major, after attending all these leadership sessions. I wanted to choose something that would help me make a lot of impact in my community with my skills. That’s what sparked my interest in agriculture. I was also interested in business, and that’s when I knew I was going to do agricultural business management.
I always had plans of seeing myself owning an agricultural company as an entrepreneur, but also teaching young people agricultural skills. I want to find something that will allow me to go back and forth between Malawi and here, and help me connect these communities that are developing. Twenty years from now, I have bigger goals. At some point in my life, I want to be the President of Malawi. I grew up in an environment whereby it was conducive for me to be able to achieve goals. I’m trying to speak with as many people as possible to find out how I can make that dream a reality.