Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Reach out and touch for Mary

By Stanley Mpasa

Mary Chauya was born Amwalembe Village in area of chief Mkumba in |Mangochi District. She has a history of epilepsy. She developed epileptic fits after the birth of her first child and she fell in the fire on  two separate incidences and had her arms amputated. Despite her condition, Mary is looking after her old mother and her late sister’s children.
Mary at her house
A Trainer of Trainers (TOT) volunteer of Maranatha Cousnellors’ Club noticed Mary selling some fruits on the roadside and he was interested to find out more about a person who had no arms but could carry and sell fruits like any other normal person. The matter was reported to Maranatha Counsellos’ Club which responded by donating various items worthy K71, 0000 (about $190) to Mary.  The matter was further referred to the District Social Welfare Office for more assistance. The

Television interview

TOT project Manager appealed for support from the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC TV) to feature Mary on the Reach Out and Touch Program, a platform through which people with disabilities and special needs  ask for help from the general public.
MBC responded and featured Mary on the program. Maranatha volunteers further donated food items and clothes worthy K61, 000 (about $161) to Mary. During the recording, Mary narrated how  difficult it was to coped with life under such conditions.  “It is very hard,” she said, “ although the people around us feel pity and help, they, too, are poor and need to take care of their families.” She added that she is very grateful for the assistance she has received both from TOT and the community members.
After airing of the program, MBC official hinted that people are now making enquiries on Marys condition and there is a ray of hope that some may come forward and assist.
Meanwhile, the TOTs have also sourced K100, 000 (about $265) which would be used to rehabilitate Marys house.
The TOT Prooject is supported by Sweden to bring about individual and society change.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

TOT volunteers mobilize community for HIV/AIDS messages

By Stanley Mpasa
The Trainer of Trainers (TOT) project volunteers have raised the alarm on the dangers of bad customs that facilitate the transmission of the HIV virus in the community through an open day function at Mbiza in Mulanje District.  The function took place on Sunday, August 17 and was spiced by drama, dances, poem recital, testimonies and speeches, all depicting the realities of HIV/AIDS and emphasizing on the importance of HIV testing.
Though the function collided with the chief’s coronation ceremony a few kilometers from the venue, over 800 people had attended.

Peterson Kamanga and other invited guests at the function
The function revealed several gaps in the fight against HIV/AIDS and they included low community compliance to the preventive messages, poor accessibility to condoms and harmful customs, among others. 
Common among harmful customs were the initiation ceremonies where boys and girls were taught sex theories and later encouraged them to put them into practice. Apart from the spread of HIV, the initiation ceremonies have also increased early pregnancies, early marriages and school drop outs especially among girls.
Mbiza support group members singing during the function
Speaking at the function South Malawi Field Health and Music Director Peterson Kamanga who was also Guest of Honor cautioned the young against engaging in risky behaviors that would encourage the spread of HIV/AIDS.   Mbiza Health Center Medical Officer, Mr Pindani commanded the work done by TOT volunteers. He disclosed that 30% of the 15000 people that have undergone HIV tests from the beginning of 2014 at the health center were referred by the TOT volunteers. Mr Pindani however bemoaned the low turn up by men for HIV tests.
A member of Mbiza Support Group Eneles Eliya testified how she lived positively with the HIV virus since 2001. She encouraged people to go for testing. Speaking earlier, Village Head Muhiya thanked the organizers for choosing his village as venue for the function and urged his subjects to take the messages seriously.
Other invited guests at the function included chiefs, pastors, teachers and medical staff.
The TOT Project is being supported by Sweden to bring about society and individual behavioral change on issues of HIV/AIDS.


Friday, August 22, 2014

First FBS students graduate in Machinga

Elias Banda
Eighteen Famer Business School (FBS) students have graduated in Machinga with mandate to take farming business to greater heights. The graduation ceremony which was spiced by dances, songs, drama and speeches took place at Nanyumbu Extension Planning Area (EPA) offices.
ADRA Malawi collaborated with the Ministry of Agriculture to build the capacity of 16 women and 2 men into agri-business activities. Before certificates were awarded, the graduating students erected pavilions, where they demonstrated the acquired skills in market research, gross margin analysis and business planning. Through market research, the graduates would now be able to analyze different cash crops and find suitable markets while the gross margin analysis would help them compare enterprises to find profitable markets. This also included an element of value addition to the crops produced. Business planning would help them access loans from the lending institutions because it was the vital part of the lending requirements.
The function was attended by chiefs, agriculture extension workers and ADRA Malawi staff.
Speaking earlier after certificate presentation, Action for Social Change (ASC) Program Manager Emma Jakobo  said that FBS was a new concept in ADRA Malawi and it was one of the strategies to reduce poverty in the rural communities. She urged the graduates to put the skills acquired to meaningful use.
One of the graduates receiving her certificate from the DPM as Emma Jakobo looks on
Speaking during the function, Traditional Authority Kawinga thanked ADRA Malawi for empowering the community with the skills in agri-business and assured the gathering that the knowledge invested would improve the quality of life in the area.
Machinga Agriculture Development Division (ADD) Deputy program Manager Benard Banda who was also Guest of Honor at the function thanked ADRA Malawi for the tireless efforts to improve the lives of people in Traditional Authority Kawinga’s area. He said ADRA Malawi had planted a seed whose fruits would be enjoyed by many people. He urged farmers in the area to take faming as a business.
The Action for Social program is being supported by Denmark to bring about individual and society change.

Friday, August 15, 2014

‘When Mother is a Child’ project takes off in Mulanje

By Elias Banda
‘When Mother is a Child’  (WMC) project has taken off in Mulanje to address matters of early marriages and reproductive health issues among other related risks facing teenager mothers.
The goal of the WMC project is to reduce teenage pregnancies and improve the health and socio-economic status of teenage mothers and their children. The two year project which is being supported by DANIDA through ADRA Denmark is targeting 300 teenage mothers between the age of 10 and 19 in Traditional Authority Juma in Mulanje District.
According to the Project Coordinator Judith Kumwenda, the project would build the capacity of teenage mothers on matters of sexual and reproductive health and human rights in order for them to make informed choices in life. The capacity building would also include; child care and cultural friendly practices, income generating and saving skills to meet teenage mothers’ physical, social and cognitive needs. The skills acquired would increase the mothers’ resilience to deal with cases of malnutrition and prevention of childhood illnesses.
Kumwenda said the intervention would also include putting in place mechanisms to encourage targeted teenage mothers to be either reintegrated into the formal education system or enrolled in the informal learning institutions such as REFLECT literacy classes and others.
The project has emanated from lessons learnt during the implementation of the   Action for Social Change Program in 60 village communities which revealed socio-economic challenges due to early sex debut, pregnancies and early marriages among girls of school going age. The consequences of these predicaments were glaring in the communities and they included high illiteracy levels, high school dropout, HIV/AIDS and poverty.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Chinomba community formulates laws ahead of initiation camps.

By Elias Banda
Initiation camps for boys and girls begin the first week of August every year in Mulanje but this year, the Chinomba Village Community would like to treat the ceremony differently by formulating laws restricting the entry age and the curriculum.
The decision to restrict initiation operations  commonly known as thezo in local language came into effect after the community discovered that the number of girls dropping out of school for early marriages was on the increase.  The irony of the matter is that girls and boys aged between 7 and 9 are now considered legible for the ceremony and while at the initiation camps, they are taught sex theories and family matters centrally to their age.
Though the camps are separate for boys and girls, they run on the same period of about 14 days and when they graduate they are instructed to practice what they learnt at the camp by sexually cleansing their bodies. If they don’t sexually cleans, they would not get married in future or their bodies would have unexplained fatalities according to Vax Mwaukila, one of the community members at Chinomba. It is on the basis of  this belief that girls are forced to practice sex after graduating from the ceremonies in order to keep the bad spirits at bay. Enelesi Manganisha of Chinomba village said the sex theories and practices have a huge bearing on child education because girls prefer sex to education and they eventually drop from school to go for early marriage.
School going children who did not undergo initiation ceremony procedure are being marginalized and segregated by peers and they react by either abandoning school or going for an early entry into entry at the initiation camp. The impression is that those who went through initiation are considered the best people in the world.
After graduation, there is a special ceremony for girls known as Chitseko (dancing on the flat door). Here, girls dance while being half naked with beads around their waist and neck in full view of the community members. During this ceremony, girls display their sexy dancing skills and they send a message to the world that they are now have all capabilities to be wives. Enelesi Manganisha argues that the practice attracts a wrong sort of attention because it creates an opportunity for men and boys to choose sexual partners. She further argues that making some one dance while being half naked without his consent is a direct attack to her dignity.
It was against this background that a ADRA Malawi facilitated a community dialogue session were people advocated for change of the approach on the initiation ceremony. During the discussions, community members outlined the consequences the culture is bringing in the community including the escalation of HIV/AIDS cases, unwanted pregnancies and birth complications among others.  The agreed age is 13 and above and that sex matters should be removed from the curriculum and those found defying this law would pay a goat and K5000 (about $125).  

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Mwanza woman finds gold in VS&L initiative

By Grey Sagawa and Kingsley Namizinga

Catherine Makungwa, 29 and mother of 4 boys hails from Sudala Village, Traditional Authority Kanduku in Mwanza District. In 2012, Catherine was divorced and life for her became unbearable as it was difficult to cope with responsibilities that go with a single parent. She struggled to find food and sending children to school. All hopes were shattered and in desperate situations, she spent most of her time doing ganyu (casual labor) in other people’s fields. Ganyu sapped all her energy that could have been used in her own field, thereby creating a vicious circle of food insecurity in her household. It never rained on Catherine but poured on her when she only could afford one meal in a day and eventually, her children started showing signs of malnutrition. Meanwhile, the grass-thatched house she lived in was dilapidated and was on a verge of collapsing.

 But in a dramatic turn of events as though she was dreaming, Catherine breathed a sigh of relief when in October 2012 she got the news that the Village Savings and Loan program (VSL) was introduced by ADRA Malawi through the DFID supported Enhanced Community Resilience Program (ECRP). At first, Catherine felt that she was not the right candidate because she was too poor to meet the requirements of the VSL initiative. But she gathered courage and joined the group called Tiyese (let’s try). The name depicts the doubts the members of the group had, whether their lives would improve after joining the group.

Upon joining VSL, she was happy to discover that her needs were met. She was happy when for the first time in her life, she got her first loan of K10, 000 (about $25) and she used the loan to set up a business selling doughnuts and bananas. A few months later, her life started changing and the more she repaid the loan the higher were her dreams for her household. At the first sharing out, she bought 24 iron sheets for her new house. Apart from the improved livelihood, Catherine’s self esteem has also been raised because she is now economically independent.

And Catherine could not hide her excitement when she said, “ I would like to thank ADRA Malawi for introducing VSL in our village. The most marginalized members of our village have now changed for the better and VSL is indeed the weapon for defeating poverty”

 The ECRP project is being supported by DFID, Irish aid and the Royal Norwegian Embassy to reach out to 4000 households with climate change mitigation initiatives in Mwanza District.

Friday, April 25, 2014

ADRA Malawi, partners, release research findings on FISP

By Elias Banda
A research report on small holder farmers’ perception on the ongoing Farm Input Subsidy Program (FISP) has been unveiled in Blantyre, sparking debate on whether it was necessary for the Malawi Government to continue with the program or not . The function, which took place at Ryalls Hotel,  was attended by  researchers, politicians, agriculture experts, lecturers and journalists.  The purpose of the function was to report farmer’s perception on subsidized fertilizer program and its impact.
Speaking during opening remarks Michael Usi, ADRA Malawi Country Director said the issue of FISP emanated from community dialogue sessions in the ADRA Malawi’s Action for Social Change Program (ASC) impact areas and it further prompted for more research into the matter.  For this reason, ADRA Malawi entered into partnership with the Civil Society Agriculture Network (CISANET)  and Centre for Agriculture Research Development (CARD) of the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR) and commissioned them to conduct a study of FISP between August and September 2013.

Michael Usi Speaking during the function
Participants listening to presentations and speeches

Presenting the findings of the study, Dr Donald Makoka from LUANAR said data for the study was collected from both FISP beneficiaries and non-beneficiaries and key informants in 6 districts of Malawi of which four ; Mulanje, Mzimba, Lilongwe and Machinga were ASC impact districts and the other two were Chikwawa and Mchinji.  On community perception  of graduation of FISP 47% of  the total sample size of 898 indicated that   FISP should graduate while 53 % said FISP should not have a graduation component.  On the future perception of FISP, Dr Makoka said that over 50% of the sampled FISP beneficiaries in 5 districts apart from Chikwawa, indicated that the program should phase out and the price of fertilizer be reduced. He said the average fertilizer price beneficiaries wanted to be reduced would be at K5000 (about $12.5)/50kg bag.
Nevertheless, the study found that 67% of the non-poor beneficiaries, 70% of the poor and 63% of the ultra-poor beneficiaries, all reported that the 2012/13 FISP had reduced their household food insecurity. The study also found that the majority of the sampled FISP beneficiaries still do not have harvest enough to last them the whole year. However, the FISP improved the beneficiaries’ ability to have food for about 2.6 months, from 4.5 months to 7.1 months in a year. 
Dr Makoka also pointed out that the FISP program has a negative bearing on the relationships in the community. He said that 87.3% of the sampled households reported that community relationships have worsened due to FISP and the proportion was highest in Lilongwe. He said traditional leaders complained that   the majority of non-beneficiaries refused to participate in community development because they were not part of the FISP program.
Dr Lipita speaking on behalf of government at the function

Currently, the FISP Program is targeting 1.5 million farm families and a researcher Hanfrey Mdyetseni From CISANET said during his presentation that the Malawi Government spent a staggering K60 Billion (about $150, 000,000) in the 2013/2014 agriculture season and the figure represents  10% of the total national budget. 
Mr Mdyetseni bemoaned the unavailability of audited report on the FISP expenditure and failure by implementers of the program to provide data on how the program has been implemented are some of the issues the general public was skeptical about.
Speaking on behalf the Malawi Government Dr  Lipita, Director of Extension Services in the Ministry of Agriculture commended ADRA Malawi and partners for the research activity. He said the research findings were thought provoking and that government would look at both sides of the debate and analyze it further to come up with a conclusion. He also said that he took note of the challenges in the implementation of FISP Program.   
The Action for social change program is being supported by Denmark to bring about individual and society change in Malawi.