Malawi Chitenjes

Malawi: the Warm Heart of Africa

Malawi is widely known as the “Warm Heart of Africa” because of the generosity and kindness of its people. With a predominantly rural population of more than 18 million people, Malawi is made up of friendly tribes and ethnic groups living in traditional villages.  

On a visit to one of these villages, you would see women wearing the traditional colorful sarong-like wraps, called Chitenjes. Women wear as many as three of these versatile wraps at a time, using them as skirts, headdresses, aprons, or to carry infants on their backs while shopping, carrying water, or working in the garden. Often, the Chitenjes color identifies a woman’s home: red to represent the north, blue for the central region, and green for the south. Men dress in typical western style, wearing jeans, pants, shirts, or suits, but shoes are rarely seen, even in cities, as they are quite expensive.

Family is very important in Malawi, and village life centers around it. Agricultural villages work to grow crops and tend livestock, and fishing villages line the shores of Lake Malawi. In these villages, extended families typically live closely together in huts built next to, or even adjoining, each other. These huts, made of sticks and mud and thatched or corrugated iron roofs, are home to family members who share everything from work to resources, caring for the elderly and raising children together. Cross International partners in Malawi work to support these hard-working people through medical care and microenterprise programs to enable adults to improve agricultural practices and establish businesses to provide for their families.

Providing food has been a particular challenge for families in Malawi, where persistent drought has significantly limited the harvest and made clean water scarce, meaning water must often be carried over a great distance for cooking. Both water and corn are needed to prepare Nsima, the core of Malawi’s cuisine. This thick porridge is made with maize flour and water and is often paired with beans, greens, tomato-and-onion salad, or other vegetables. Rice, potatoes, and cassava are common, and occasionally, meat such as chicken, goat, or pig will round out the meal. Fish is also a staple along the coastline of Lake Malawi. To help during these challenging times when these traditional foods are scarce, nutritious balanced meals are offered to orphans and vulnerable children as part of educational programs at the Ambuya Development Center, a Cross International partner.

In every aspect of this African nation’s culture, its richness and beauty is a reflection of its most precious resource—the vibrant, loving people of Malawi. Cross International is proud to come alongside these amazing people through partnerships that minister to one child and one family at a time.

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