Grandma's Silo

Guest blog by Nelson Musipa, The Navigators

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What did your parents teach you about saving Money? This was the first question in a bible study with one of my mentors. 

As I pondered this question I realized that my parents never taught me about saving money—at least I don’t recall. My parents divorced, but even after my mother remarried I do not remember her or my stepfather talking to me about saving money. I also lived with one of my uncles who was a teacher, but I do not remember conversations on saving money. What I remember is how he seemed overwhelmed by financial needs.

Was there nothing in my upbringing that taught me about saving? This is discouraging!

But then I remembered the time I lived with my grandparents as a little boy. My grandma did not have a bank account, but she saved!

Each harvest season she would set aside some of her harvest of maize. Each harvest was divided into three categories. First, she picked the big healthy [corn] cobs and set them aside as seed for the next farming season—not to be touched.

Second, she shelled some of the maize and saved it to ensure food security. This shelled maize was kept in a grain silo about eight-feet tall.

The silo did not have a door but it had a small window that was sealed to protect the grain from rodents—or greedy thieves—until the next harvest. Through this small window the grain would be poured in. Whenever they needed grain to grind into mealie-meal, a small boy or girl would be let in through the window to bring out the needed grain. But then the window was sealed again.

This was where I came handy as a small boy! I enjoyed getting into the silo through this small window to dish out grain through the window. The feeling of the grains pressing on my feet as I sank into the maize was a joyful experience.

The third category was for immediate consumption and for selling. Once enough grain to last until the next harvest was safely stored in the silo, the remainder was packed in bags to be ferried by ox wagon to the Agricultural Marketing Company responsible for buying maize.

As I look back I realize that I did learn about saving—not from my parents but my grandmother in the village. She did not have a bank account but the grain silo was her savings plan. Even though my grandmother was not educated, saving grain so that it can be used in the near future was instilled in her way of life.

My grandmother is now 96 years old and not as active as she used to be, but still insists some maize and groundnuts be grown for her so she can have something to give to people who visit her.

One of my key bible passages on saving is Proverbs 6:6-8, “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer, or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.”

The ant is wise enough to save for the future when food will be scarce. Over the years I have appreciated setting aside some money for the future. It’s in a separate account not my main operational account. The money there is only touched when needed either for the purpose for which it was saved or for an emergency.

My wife and I had been looking for some land to build a house on so that we could get out of rented property. An opportunity came when one commercial farmer decided to subdivide his land into residential lots. This was such a great opportunity as the terms of payment were very good. You could either buy a lot for cash or pay a deposit and clear the balance over two years.

Since we had been saving we decided that it was best for us to buy not one lot for cash but pay a deposit for four lots. We would then build a house to live in on two of the lots and build a rental flat on the other two. That is exactly what we did. We have since moved into our own house and have now started developing the three by two bedroomed flat for rent.

Like my grandmother, I continue to save for the future, not a silo but a bank account.