Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Exchange visits benefit IGA teams

The implementation of Income Generating Activities (IGA) has seen tremendous response from communities. When the issue of IGAs was presented to the communities in the course of the project, there was some doubt from some communities because groups were not to be given cash, rather, they were to be given grants in kind (communities were to be given commodities, machinery or livestock depending on what the groups choose). There were a lot of questions on how this method would work, but time has said it all, the grants have been given, community members have been trained and the committees received their commodities in the form of machinery or livestock, on behalf of their communities.
As part of an urge to improve their IGA three groups in Mulanje District conducted exchange visits. The groups wanted to learn from each other since the success of running an IGA is a big challenge as there are different people brought together for one cause.
For instance, the Income Generating Activity (IGA) Committee at Thembe (a site in Mulanje) has been facing a lot of challenges in the implementation of their activities. The turn out at Committee meetings and work gatherings has been very low and there was even drop out of members. Community mobilization has also been a challenge as has been the link up with the Traditional Leaders in the area. This was in marked contrast with Chisitu (another site in Mulanje), which has a similar IGA with Thembe (milk production).

The challenges prompted ADRA district staff to discuss the problem with both communities and developing the idea of having a exchange visit with the Thembe team visiting Chisitu. The idea was to give the two Committees a chance to share their experiences in the hope that Thembe would learn and rectify their shortfalls while Chisitu would also learn from their colleagues’ mistakes and avoid them. The idea was welcomed by both Committees and was held on 21st October, 2009.

The team from Thembe was accompanied by the Community Worker and the Veterinary Assistant from Ministry of Agriculture. The team from Chisitu outlined their strategy where by most of its committee members were Farm Club members (farms were initiated by ADRA), therefore, highly interested in farming and able to work as a group. The Committee also ensured the involvement of the Traditional Leaders and the Community right from the beginning. Another important point the team from Chisitu emphasized was on the importance of explaining to the community that the IGA was for the whole Community while the Committee just represented them. This was evidenced by the fact that they collected money to open their own bank account; Youths, Farmers, CFs and some Village members all contributed.The visiting team learnt the importance of involving the Leaders and the Community; it makes work easier and strengthens the sense of ownership.

The visitors were shown the Chisitu khola (kraal) and the field of elephant grass planted to feed the cows. The visiting group was impressed and is now determined to do their best to catch up. Even the Vet Assistant vowed to do all she can to turn things round.

Much as the other site, Mbiza, is rearing chickens, the ideas on how to run a business was of relevance to the group as well, hence the group from Chisitu visited their counterparts from Mbiza site.

In all these visitations the groups shared ideas on how to strengthen ties within the community and with community leaders. They also shared best practices on how to run business especially that they are working as a team of more than ten people.

At the end of the exchange members of both groups made a very positive balance of the activity. Visibly motivated the groups mentioned how important the activity had been and their plans to continue interacting and sharing information.

Author: Stanley Mpasa - Mulanje District Coordinator

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