Thursday, December 18, 2008


I must admit that my first trip to Malawi did not dissapoint! ADRA Australia has been funding projects in Ntcheu district for the past few years now and the current Local Initiatives for Community Empowerment in Ntcheu (LICEN) project has continued to assist local communities gain a stronger voice with which to represent their needs to local authorities and has passed on the essential skills needed to address these needs where outside assistance is not consistent. 

A key aspect of the LICEN project is the role played by ADRA Malawi’s project staff in working with local community representatives to build the management and leadership skills of Kumanga Umodzi (KU’s) groups. These community based organisation (KU’s) are the chosen representatives for various entitees within their local communities and are responsible for advocating community needs in education, water, natural resources and health to the Village Development Committees and Area Development Committes. 

This model has helped to give the voices of people at the village level an easier line of communication to local government and traditional authorities and has helped to clarify the needs and achievements of communities within Ntcheu district.  

Photo: a local representative from a Kumaga Umodzi provides an update on the activities and needs within his community at the Area Development Committee meeting 

Sometimes, however, being able to communicate with traditional and government authorities does not always ensure that all the needs within a local community are going to be addressed. ADRA’s response to this has been to training local KU groups in business skills so that they can run their own business to raise funds to support meet the costs of activities and assets that have a social or economic benefit for the community as a whole. One community that we visited had chosen to run a bakery business and were receiving training from ADRA and two women from nearby community (who had also successfully implemented a bakery business) in how to run and manage a successful business. 

When asked what they hoped to use the funds from the bakery business for, a local elder suggested that they might like to start a larger business that assists in providing fuel for the local community.

Photo: A young woman assists ADRA staff to train a local community group on how to run and maintain a small bakery business for their community. 

The LICEN project also understands the needs and challenges of youth and their growing representation among the population of Malawi. Not all children in Ntcheu district have the opportunity to complete their primary and secondary education, so ADRA is working with school youth groups to help provide them with some essential life skills should they be unable to continue doing their schooling. To achieve this, ADRA chooses two teachers in partner schools to be mentors for their students assists them to train the students in life skills that warn them about HIV and AIDS and how to avoid it as well as equipping them with skills in farming, food preparation and in some cases sewing their own clothes.

Photo:  A young student shows the schools junior farmer field. Another boy shows off a shirt he has made during a sewing class at school.

Travelling with the project staff I visited three junior farmer fields where school children were learning essential farming techniques and proudly displayed a wide variety of the vegetables and other crops that they have grown. By supporting these activities within the LICEN project ADRA is helping the future generation of young boys and girls in Ntcheu gain the essential skills they need for life after school, while still being able to access formal learning. 

Author: Darin Roberts - International Program Manager, ADRA Australia

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