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Proverb of the Day
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Work in the sun, eat in the shade

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Updated 5mo ago
View this proverb in Swahili
Mchumia juani, hulia kivulini
by Magreth Lazaro Mafie 🇹🇿
🏆 Proverb Essay Contest 
🥉 Third Place Winner
(English translation from Kiswahili)
How many times have you heard “Mchumia juani hulia kivulini” (One who works in the sun, eats in the shade). This is a Swahili (Bantu) proverb meant to encourage people in their everyday activities, to have faith that there will be a day when they will enjoy the fruits of their work.

This proverb gives people strength, diligence, heart, courage, hope and skill in working. The worker believes that hard work brings a good harvest that will allow him to relax in the shade as he eats the fruits of his labor. 

The following poem shows “One who works in the sun” in their daily responsibilities.
I fear neither sun nor rain, making my tomorrow
I fear neither injuries nor pain, because all are temporary
Scorching sun and work are my custom, so that happiness comes in life
The street vendor, the farmer, the [port boys] and their fisherman and the sun, in search of tomorrow
One who works in the sun, eats in the shade, I am still searching for shade.

It's noon, the sun overhead, in my head I have the harvest, sweat is dripping,
The sun has set now, the oar on the beach, exhausted in bed, nets in the sea,
At home on fourth street, captain of the family, may I pull happiness from hard labor
Now the sun is rising, walking the path to look for a bite,
One who works in the sun, eats in the shade, I am still searching for shade.

Once there was a farmer. He spent his whole life in agriculture. Thus his times for pleasure were few. People in his village called him a skilled farmer. He built a house by selling part of his crops, he educated his children through farming.

This farmer was a diligent man, he always learned the principles of being a good farmer, so as time went by, he harvested many crops from his fields. Many people were really amazed to see the big changes in his family. He made many investments in his village, the farms, houses, and shops, and many livestock came from his farm.

Many people came to take wisdom from the skilled farmer. He always told them "One who works in the sun, eats in the shade. The hoe has given me respect in the village, me and my family. My life now is going on a path of certainty, I am in the shade, enjoying the fruits of my labor in the sun. I, the son of that skilled farmer, am proud of my upbringing, and his responsibility, because work in the sun today has made us rest and eat in the shade. The true meaning of “he who works in the sun” can be seen in actions. Your diligence is your sun and the shade is the fruit of your diligence.

This story is complemented by the story of "Mabala the Farmer" by Richard S. Mabala (1989). Mabala was a port worker then he was demoted, so he chose to return to the village of Morogoro. Mabala was careless, drunk and obstinate. Mabala went to the farm with a gallon of booze, he drank it and went to sleep, when he woke up, he called out to his wife but there was no answer except the sound of the hoe tik-tok, tik-tok.

Mabala was obstinate, he watered the fields with sugar, thinking it was fertilizer, but in the end he changed to become a skilled farmer, becoming “one who works” in the sun so that his family could eat in the shade. Do you feel that Mabala is “one who works in the sun”? In the family or in the community, what’s your image of a skilled farmer?

In conclusion, this story on the proverb "Work in the sun, eat in the shade" shows us a good vision in everything we do in our daily lives. Also proverbs like "Subira yavuta kheri” (Patience brings blessings), "Mgaa na Upwa hali wali mkavu” (He who combs the beach at low tide doesn’t eat dry rice) all have similar themes; they exist to give the community strength and hope each task undertaken to pursue their goals.


About this Essay

This essay won third place 🥉 in's Proverb Essay Contest 🏆 July 2023
Magreth Lazaro Mafie is a student from Tanzania 🇹🇿  


Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0)
Essay by Magreth Lazaro Mafie
English translation by Brighid McCarthy
Published by
Image: CC BY
Image created from "Peasant with a Hoe" by Georges Seurat, c. 1882, Public Domain

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Translator's note:

Translating proverbs and poetry is not easy-- Please give feedback and suggest improvements in the comments!  

The original proverb in Swahili is “Mchumia juani hulia kivulini.” Let’s break it down piece by piece: 
M    -    chumia                   -                  jua   -   ni - hu   -    lia  - kivuli   -  ni
One who - earns/toils/labors/saves/economizes/works - the sun - in - usually - eats - the shade - in
Here are a few alternative translations:
He who earns his living in the sun, eats in the shade
The one who saves up in the sun eats in the shade
Work in the sun, eat in the shade
He/She who toils in the sun will eat in the shade
The laborer in the sun eats in the shade
The worker in the sun eats in the shade

Extra Image: The original essay included the following image from another source, which is not included in the Creative Commons license.
Image from: Honey Bee Arts - YouTube