Monday, December 13, 2010

THINKING GREEN IN NKANDO, MULANJE

Compiled by: Stanley Mpasa.
District Coordinator.

After years of service delivery, ADRA is now moving towards empowering the communities to strengthen their self sufficiency. The Communities, through the various CBGs, are trained in various areas and access information on a variety of subjects through channels like Community Dialogue Sessions, Theatre for Development and Mass Media. This information opens their eyes to their rights and the issues taking place around them. This makes them better placed to recognize issues that are adversely affecting their daily lives and empower them to look for ways of solving the problems themselves instead of waiting for outside help. They are made aware of the various avenues open to them and how to use them to achieve their goals. This shift in strategy was received with reservations at the beginning but now seems to have taken hold. The people now appreciate the importance of this strategy and are responding positively.

In Nkando, Mulanje, the story is no different. Two Farmers’ Clubs, Tadala and Mulambe, of GVH Muriya, through their discussions, recognized that there was more to the low yields being realized from their fields than met the eye. Their discussions and consultations showed that a big part of the reason was the loss of top soil that was making the fields less fertile. They also realized that merely replacing the fertility through the recommended methods like applying compost manure would not be very effective as the loss of soil would continue. It was, therefore, crucial to address the root cause of the soil loss. They determined that this was caused by the large volumes of rain water that is flowing down through their fields without being controlled as there is very scant vegetation to hold the soil together and to slow down the water. This made them realize that the lasting solution lay in the replacement of the trees that had been cut down so wantonly.

The two Farmers’ Clubs, through the area’s AEDEC and the ADRA CDF approached the area’s Forestry Officer and presented their problem. He agreed to help them raise seedlings using seeds that would be collected locally and also show them how the trees should be planted and how they should be cared for. After the seed collection had started, they realized that the quality was not very good and the ADRA CDF suggested that the ADRA District Office get in touch with Mulanje Mountain Conservation Trust, which has experts that deal with the conservation of nature around the mountain, for help. The Trust was approached through the Forestry Office, Mr. Kayembe, who agreed to help despite Nkando being outside their impact area. He agreed to our request to give basic training on nursery management to the farmers and to provide some tree seeds of the types that are suitable for the Nkando area. To our delight, he added that he would also donate some planting tubes and give us more seed than we had asked for.


A meeting with the farmers was organized on 18th August, 2010, inorder to discuss in detail what the farmers’ aims were and how they planned to run both the nurseries and the forests. The farmers explained what they were aiming for and how they planned to achieve it. In the end they were advised on what type of trees they needed to plant and how they can raise them in the nursery. They were also advised that they need to manage the forests through community participation to strengthen the sense of ownership. It was also mentioned that the farmers needed to plant some of the trees, especially those with high medicinal value like moringa, around their homes. Most importantly, the farmers were advised to take farming activities as business where they should always aim to get a return for everything they do. The farmers were also commended for deciding to replace the vegetation in their communities as, apart from solving the erosion and fertility problems, the activity would also help in the fight against climate change. This meeting was attended Juliet Pandwe, Director of Community Social Rights Advocates of Zambia, who was visiting MMCT to learn how her Organisation can help the Zambians replace the vegetation had had been destroyed. A second meeting was arranged 1st September, where a demonstration was held on how to fill the planting tubes with soil and how to plant the seeds correctly as the planting differs according to the type of seed. They were also taught how to take care of the plants during their growth in the nursery.

The seeds were successfully planted and the plants are now ready for planting out in the field as can be seen in the photographs attached. MMCT offered to come again to advise the farmers on how to plant the seedlings out in the field and give them a few tips on field management. It is also very encouraging to see that four nurseries have been established using the seed and planting pots that were donated by MMCT and it is hoped that when planting out is completed, significant areas will be covered.

The people of Muriya are very grateful for the great assistance that has been given and they hope this relationship will continue for a long time to come.

Note: photos for this blog were obtained from the following sites:
photo 1: Moringa plant: http://gbgm-umc.org/health/aidsafrica/photos/moringa.jpg
photo 2: Seedlings: http://www.re-char.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/offset1.jpg
photo 3: Drawing: http://www.kaieteur.uk.com/images/itemImages/Kaieteur-Tree-Planting-Fund-%C2%A35-Gift-Donation-.JPG

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Celebrating Bicycle Ambulances

By Krystle Praestiin

Golden Village in Mulanje has a population of around 3000 people; they live between 15 to 20 kilometers from the nearest District Hospital and recently suffered the loss of three community members because they were unable to get them to the hospital in time. Imagine their excitement when an ADRA vehicle carrying two newly donated Bicycle Ambulances from ADRA Portugal, came to gift them with these potentially life-saving bicycles.

Women, men and children gathered around the Bicycle Ambulances as they were being assembled, excitement and wonder on their faces. The women’s exuberant singing filled the air as they sang songs thanking ADRA Portugal for providing funds to have these two Bicycle Ambulances donated to their village. It was an uplifting experience to be a part of. Each community member, with their broad smiles and joyful dancing now had hope that unnecessary deaths could be prevented with the extra time these Bicycle Ambulances would provide.

To express their gratitude a man with very good English wrote the following letter on behalf of the Golden Village Chief and community members, to thank ADRA Portugal for their donation.

Dear friends of Portugal,
On behalf of Golden Village Citizens I wish to thank all the friends of Portugal who have sent us these two bicycles and trolleys. We were suffering seriously and dying without reaching our nearby hospitals because we were lacking trolleys. So please send our sincere greetings to all friends of Portugal ADRA.
Sincerely Yours,
Chief of Golden Village of Mulanje District


The bicycles were handed over to a Bicycle Ambulance management and maintenance committee of 10 people. On the committee was the brother of a man who had recently died from measles because he was unable to get to the hospital in time. This brother is the Vice Chairman of the group and together with his fellow committee members is committed to maintain and manage these bicycles to the best of their abilities. The committee has already set up procedures for managing the Bicycle Ambulances, deciding to charge each community member a fee of 10 kwacha a month (less than $1 US), this money will then be used to make repairs to the bicycles. Log books of when and by whom the bicycle is used will be kept to ensure that the bicycle is used appropriately and is not damaged. The treasurer and another member of the committee will be in charge of keeping the Bicycle Ambulances while they are not being used.

Thanks to the donation of ADRA Portugal, ADRA Malawi was able to provide a very valuable resource to the people of Golden Village, a resource that will help save lives. The donations of ADRA Portugal will also see the provision of eight more Bicycle Ambulances to other villages under the Women Empowerment Project2 (WEP2) which is funded by Sida, through ADRA Sweden.

video

Friday, November 26, 2010

District commissioner hails ADRA study on sunflower

By Sangwani Mwafulirwa

The District Commissioner for Mulanje, Mr Jack Ngulube has commended ADRA Malawi for a successful study of the value chain of sunflowers. He said the results will help to put in place proper mechanisms to help famers get more income for their work.

Speaking during a value chain study dissemination workshop, held in the district on November 12, 2010, the district commissioner said sunflowers were one of the crops identified in the district development plan which needed to be promoted.

“You have presented a very realistic picture to us. Our programming will be realistic because we will have a real picture of the potential benefits of adding value to sunflowers. Let me thank you for the study as it will contribute to the development of our district,” he said.

The district commissioner said value chain adding was the only way that could improve income for farmers, most of whom are growing on a small holder scale.

“We are glad that the study was done in Mulanje. The District development plan also looked at ways to improve income for farmers, and sunflower is one of the crops to be promoted,” he explained.

He said the challenge was how to assist farmers to change their mindset of using traditional methods of farming to adopt new ones that can help them adopt new techniques that will help produce optimal yields even without increasing the acreage.

The meeting was attended by various stakeholders in the sunflower industry in Mulanje including: the ministry of agriculture, Bvumbwe Research Station, Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (ADMARC), farmer associations, agro-dealers, farmers and other NGOs.

Also in attendance were journalists from the national public broadcaster, Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (both television and radio), the biggest private national radio station, Zodiak Broadcasting Station, Blantyre Newspapers and Nation Publications.

In her remarks during opening of the workshop, Project Manager for Resilience and Capacity Building for HIV/Aids Households (RECAB), Mrs Thoko Mwapasa said ADRA Malawi did a rapid analysis of the cash crops in the district that they wanted to develop.

“We settled for sunflower because of the opportunity it offers as a cash crop of generating employment and improving the income of farmers,” she said.

She also added that the stakeholders workshop was organized not only to disseminate the results of the study but to also create a platform where all players in the value chain come together to discuss and map out a way forward in addressing the key issues in the value chain in order to develop the industry. She urged participants to look at this as an opportunity to work closer together and form innovative partnerships that will develop the subsector and attract investors into Mulanje district as well as into the sunflower production industry as a whole of the economic growth and development of the country.

Presenting the findings, lead consultant, Tonderai Manoto said sunflower was of strategic importance as it was taking advantage of existing labour and other value-adding initiatives by National Association of Smallholder Farmers (NASFAM) and One Village One Product (OVOP).
According to him there was potential to increase average harvest from the current 500kg per hectare to 2500kg if farmers were encouraged to use dressed seed which is already available from Chitedze and Bvumbwe Research Stations unlike recycling.

“We can increase harvest without increasing acreage by using treated seeds but the problem is that farmers think seeds from the shop are expensive unlike recycled seeds which they just pick anywhere for free.

“Farmers are foregoing a lot of income by recycling seeds. We can achieve high yields by reworking the husbandry practices for the smallholder farmers,” he said.

Manoto also said there was an opportunity to realise more income for farmers by adding value to the sunflower whereby they would extract cooking oil by themselves and then use the residue to make seed cakes which can also be sold.

“There is a big urban market for cooking oil which we cannot satisfy. There are so many imported brands in the shops with very high prices. If farmers get organized they can extract their own cooking oil from sunflowers and sell them easily because a market already exists,” he explained.

In his contribution during plenary, Crops Officer for Mulanje District under the Ministry of Agriculture, Wilfred Ugeni said the cost of the production of sunflowers was lower than other cash crops but what was lacking was that policy makers have not given it much attention as with other cash crops like tobacco and cotton.

He said extension workers have a responsibility to educate the farmers about the potential income that could be realised from sunflowers, to support them in getting organized and to help them identify good markets for their harvest.

ADRA Malawi is implementing the RECAB project in partnership with ADRA Denmark with financial support from DANIDA. The aim of the project is to improve resilience ad capacity among vulnerable and poor household affected by HIV/AIDS through improved food availability and income, improved health and increased knowledge and learning capacity for communities to take charge of community development.

Full report of the study can be provided upon request by writing to info@adramw.org

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Start of a New Decade

By Sangwani Mwafulirwa

With the support of ADRA Malawi under its Women Empowerment project, the women group of Village Headwoman Chilingulo in T/A Chikumbu in Mulanje conducted a double celebration. It was a celebration of Mother’s Day and International Rural Women’s Day which has coincided with the launch of the African Women’s Decade in Kenya. Led by T/A Chikumbu, the women outlined what they wanted to achieve in their area of environmental conservation, education, gender equality and women empowerment.

According to the Group Village Headwoman Chilingulo, some children have been facing challenges to attain secondary education let alone tertiary training because their parents or guardians were too poor to afford school fees and their upkeep.

She said this has contributed to early marriages amongst girls who find nothing to do after completion of primary school education which is free. As for boys, they go and work in tea plantations in an attempt to make ends meet.

To avert this, the village head said they have set up a special fund that will help all needy children who have been selected to government secondary school so that they do not fail to pursue their studies because of the two usual challenges; school fees, examination fees and uniform.

“Even those that will go to tertiary schools will be supported. We are very much interested in having nurses from our areas and we will make sure that by 2020 there are five nurses from this area working at the hospital,” she explained.

To achieve all this, each family will be contributing money or harvest, to be sold and the money will be administered by a committee. According to the village head, so far the households have already contributed a gallon of pigeon peas for selling.

The Chilungulo head has also taken a stern stance against early marriages by imposing a ban. Any parent who will consent to early marriage will be summoned to her court where if guilty, will be fined a goat and the child be sent back to school.

On women empowerment, they plan to engage in income generating activities whose proceeds will be saved in a village savings group.

“We want to have easy access to capital other than rely on micro-lending institutions whose conditions sometimes leave us poorer than before. We will borrow amongst ourselves at flexible conditions and low interest,” she explained during the launch.

To conserve the environment, the women will have already planted a nursery of natural tree seedlings which they will plant in uncultivated areas and also a village managed forest so that they get firewood easily.

The village head said women will also be encouraged to attend adult literacy classes so that by 2020 no one will need to use a thumb when voting or signing after receiving a subsidised fertiliser coupon.

Supporting her junior’s initiatives, T/A Chikumbu urged men in the area to support the women by providing them space to work and participate. She said she will see to it that some traditional practices that perpetuate gender inequality and hinder women participation in development work are abolished.

Under its WEP project, ADRA Malawi is working with women in the area to empower them to be economically independent through engaging them in income generating activities and by teaching them about their rights and how best to claim them.

It is through the training and support provided by ADRA Malawi in the WEP 2 project (Funded by ADRA Sweden), that women’s groups like this one have been able to mobilise themselves to initiate development initiatives within their own communities. It is inspiring to see women taking actions that will have a positive and lasting impact for women, girls, men and boys, for today and into the future.

Monday, October 18, 2010

When water means life

Story by: Sangwani Mwafulirwa

If water is life then he who gives water gives life. Since creation no form of life has existed without water, from human beings to the smallest of all living creatures, their existence depends on having access to water. Yet access to water will mean something very different for someone who gets water at the turn of a tap at home compared to someone like Chrisy Kilowe from Luwanja Village in Mulanje.

Chrisy has spent her 40-year life in Luwanja Village and the biggest challenge for her has been collecting water. Everyday she treks two kilometres to the neighbouring village where she draws water from an unprotected shallow well. A task which presents several dangers, dangers Chrisy is well aware of, having almost lost her unborn daughter of six months to diarrhoea last year.
However, Chrisy Kilowe is not alone. Her whole community faces many of the same challenges. The rainy season is particularly hard because all the mud and filth from uphill washes into the well. Households with no money to buy water treating chemicals have no option but to do their best with the dirty water, which poses severe health risks.

Thankfully, these problems will now be the tale of the past because an organisation, Water for All, has come to the rescue of the people by sinking a borehole in the village.

Water for All is an organisation founded by Atlas Copco employees in Sweden. Their aim is to provide clean and potable water to drought-prone areas of the world by drilling and digging water boreholes.

Water for All came to know of the problems in Luwanja Village through ADRA which has been implementing a three-year Women Empowerment Project (WEP) in the area.
According to WEP manager, Andiyesa Mhango the project was teaching people in the area about entrepreneurship, Rights Based Approaches and nutrition. Access to water has become another pressing issue for the project, because most women are being affected by limited access to clean and drinkable water.

“Water is a crucial component to women empowerment. Challenges of fetching water are robbing women of their vital time, time they could spend towards development of their communities and households.

“That is why we approached Water for All through ADRA Sweden. [Thanks to their support] we will be drilling in two more villages where they are facing the same problems,” says Mrs Mhango.
For women in particular, a borehole reduces the long journeys needed to collect water, journeys that start at 3 am every morning and that must be walked six times a day. It means that now women and their families do not get sick from diahorrea and other water borne diseases. A borehole gives communities more time and improved health to work on activities that develop their households and community.

The borehole for Luwanja village was handed over on Friday October 1, 2010 at a function which was attended by the Traditional Authority Chikumbu. She expressed her gratitude to Water for All and emphasised the need for communities to make bigger efforts towards improving the hygiene and sanitation around their homes, for example through the construction of pit latrines. These steps combined with clean water will make a greater impact on people’s health.

The Senior Environmental Health Officer for Mulanje Mr. Issac Jumma, stated that “only six out of 1o households in the village had sanitary facilities, which poses a huge threat to communities, especially through the coming rainy season.”

The crowd cheered in acceptance of this message, showing their commitment to improving the health and sanitation of their community. Already, as by requirement, the village has set up a water source committee to manage and maintain the borehole. The committee is responsible for collecting monthly contributions from the community to put towards the maintenance fund. A fence has also been constructed around the borehole to keep domestic animals away and people are being urged to guard the water source, to prevent theft of vital parts from the borehole.

In conclusion, the people’s joy and happiness could not be hidden. Their songs expressed it while their dancing demonstrated it. The event was a celebration of the gift of life provided to Village Luwanja, by Water for All, Sweden.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Rwanda, Malawi ADRA staff hone skills in capacity building

What is an organisation? This is the question that set the tone for the one-week training workshop on capacity building and strategy development organised for Adventist Development and Development Agency (ADRA) staff at Sport View Hotel in Kigali, Rwanda.
The training, which ran from 20 to 25th September, 2010, drew participants from ADRA Rwanda and Malawi offices and was organised with an aim of equipping the staff with skills and knowledge on how they can help communities attain their development needs and aspirations. The workshop was possible due to the DANIDA support received through ADRA Denmark.
Facilitated by a consultant from Uganda, Kwiri Topher, participants, who were mainly programme staff, were taken through the process of understanding organisations, needs and gaps identifications, development of capacity building plans.
According to Topher, capacity programmes could be effective and achieve better results, if implementers understood the behaviour and mechanics of organisational development. Like human beings, he said, organisations have stages in their development cycle.
“organisations like human beings are born, do grow, become old and die, get born again or resurrect. In some cases they even become child parents. If you know the stage the organisation is at a time, it will be easy to identify the capacity gaps you need to fill,” he said.
According to the facilitator, some rush into implementing capacity programmes basing on what they perceive could be the capacity gaps of the community-based groups but there is need to follow a process that is participatory and systematic in identifying the needs.
If an organisation is in its infancy stage capacity needs will be more as it needs extra support to grow. If matured it can help others and when its ageing it will need to be supported also. If you understand these stages then you can easily identify the needed capacity needs, he said.
Apart from understanding of organisations, the training covered developing of capacity building plans, capacity building strategy development, framework for strategy development and formulating action plans.
The meeting also provided an opportunity where the two countries could share experiences and knowledge, challenges and successes on capacity building activities they have had with community-based groups.
Emma Jakobo, manager for Lets Fight Aids in Malawi (LEFAM) project presented on what has been done to build capacity of community-based groups which ADRA Malawi has been working with under the project and also activities done in preparation for implementation of the Action for Social Change programme.
She said some of the activities ADRA Malawi had already accomplished included training of groups in advocacy and communication for social change. This will prepare them to be part of a vibrant civil society that will be able to engage with stakeholders and duty bearers in order to achieve their development aspirations.
Patrick Mphaka, programme manager for Action for Social Change programme in Rwanda presented on the country’s experience on capacity building initiatives with local communities. He also highlighted some of the capacity gaps identified during a baseline survey done in September 2010.
On the third day, participants split into two groups and visited two districts where in rural setting of Rwanda to put into practice what they learnt in the workshop. It was quite an exciting moment meandering through the hills in Rwanda, beautifully carpeted by tea plantains.
The scenery was no different to the tea plantations of Malawi and it was no surprise that the experiences from the meetings gave the Malawi participants a nostalgic experience of the interactions with communities back home.
There was evident enthusiasm and commitment of the communities to develop their area and attain better living standards. Warm welcome for visitors and, were it not for the rains, one women group of women comprising wives of soldiers, police officers and prisoners, had organised traditional dances in Karongi, a district west of Rwanda.
Gender equality was in practice, women participated equally and eloquently in the discussions and decisions makings. The groups visited included school management committees, parents and teachers associations and women income generating groups.
The field visits affirmed the assertion that capacity building is more than just providing training and material resources. Sometimes one just needs to provide information, linkages. The women group in Karongi was weaving baskets but did not know where to sell them.
Back to the workshop in Kigali participants developed draft capacity-building plans and strategies on how they could address the problems identified from the field trips.
Commenting about the workshop, Agness Ingabire, a communication facilitator with ADRA Rwanda, said it was an eye-opener to her because of the systematic approach used to identify the capacity gaps and come up with interventions to address the.
“The mix of classroom and field visits has given me a new experience to deal with the problems in the community. Sometimes we jump steps and come up with interventions that do not address the real issues and the challenges persist. The communities we visited have the same problem as in my duty station, this has been my practical experience and I will directly apply to this knowledge to my work,” she said.
In his closing remarks, country director for ADRA Rwanda thanked the participants for availing themselves and urged them to put into practice what they had learnt because that was the ultimate goal of the workshop.
It is important to understand that God has a purpose with your work. Your work in fulfilling God’s purpose in your life will be complete with the information given here, he said.

Author: Sangwani MWAFULIRWA, Advocacy Officer - ADRA Malawi

Monday, October 4, 2010

Bicycle Ambulance peddle to the rescue

Story by: Andiyesa Mahango
Complied and Edited by Krystle Praestiin

People in Golden village will not forget the grief that struck the village on the 28th of August 2010 due to the death of Musano Gata aged 30 from measles.

That evening, upon hearing of Ms. Gata’s worsening illness her relatives ran up and down the streets of Golden Village searching for transport to the District Hospital, located 17 kilometers away from her home. Their efforts found that the community’s bicycle ambulance, which also serves four neighboring villages, was in Kadewere Village, four kilometers away. Their solution was to construct an improvised stretcher made from bamboo and walk the distance to the hospital. On the journey to the hospital however, Ms Gata’s condition deteriorated rapidly and before she made it to the hospital she died.

Ms Gata’s story is a heartbreaking reality for many people living in communities situated long distances from health facilities that do not have a readily available form of transport like and ambulance bicycle.

ADRA Malawi with the support of private donors who have donated to the ADRA International gift catalogue, “Bicycle Ambulances for Malawi,” are working together to provide communities with this much needed form of transport. The Bicycle Ambulance project will enable selected communities to have a permanent means of transportation for sick and injured people that need access to health facilities.

In Zambia, the Bicycle Ambulance project implemented in 2009 was found to increase access to health facilities significantly. 86% of trips to health facilities on Bicycle Ambulances were found to be lifesaving.
Currently, ADRA Malawi has only been able to obtain 36 bicycle ambulances. This means we still need 50 more bicycles to reach our target of 90. So we need your help, to achieve this goal and together we can contribute to saving the lives of many community members by increasing a person’s timely access to health facilities.
Go to http://giftcatalog.adra.org/search/gift_search/malawi to support this project.


note: photo obtained from http://www.treehugger.com/namibia-bicycle-ambulance.jpg - it is an example of the type of bicycle ambulances that will be used here in Malawi.

Irrigating towards a better life

Story by: David Nyirongo
Compiled and Edited by: Krystle Praestiin

A new irrigation system provided by ADRA Malawi in June has brought hope to the Gangitsa/Chikwita Farmers Club in Tchenga village.

In August 2009, a group of seven farmers, four women and three men, all above the age of 35 joined together to start farming maize. They decided to use irrigation farming as this would produce higher harvest yields. However, since they did not own their own irrigation equipment the group needed to borrow a treadle pump and delivery pump from other farmers. The cost for hiring this equipment each day amounted to 200 kwacha ($1.30 USD). A price that may not sound great to some people, but when you are living in poverty and trying to break free from it, this is a great price to pay every day.

Their drive to provide for their families and to move out of their poverty led them to ADRA Malawi. Through the ADRA Denmark supported project RECAB, the group was assisted with one treadle pump, one sprayer and 100 grams of onion seed.

‘We used to borrow a treadle pump, delivery pipe and spraying machine at a cost, but thanks to ADRA Malawi, RECAB project, we are now no longer borrowing these equipments’, said Grace Davide, who is the chairperson for the group.

Today, if you were to visit this group you would find a lady or a man vigorously stepping up and down on their new treadle pump (the latest and most useful exercise machine to hit the market). The treadle pump is connected to a long plastic tube which winds its way past river, shrub and rock before it reaches the lush green fields of maize and onions that are daily nourished with water.

ADRA Malawi is also contributing to the group’s development by providing capacity building in modern irrigation technologies. One member from the group has been trained in modern irrigation technologies such as canalization, correct plant spacing and management of crops. This group member is then responsible for training the other group members.

The group has developed a plot of 0.2 hectares and with this crop they are determined to move away from being “hunger families,” to being “food secured families”. So far the group has been able to provide enough food for their families through the adoption of this new equipment and knowledge that ADRA Malawi has given with them.

Each individual has even developed their own kitchen gardens for their homes and some members belong to a newly formed Producer Group Enterprise (PGE) which is assisting the group to develop their farming into a business. Two members from the group were sent to Lilongwe and Blantyre to source potential markets for their produce.

This story is an example of the empowerment and hope ADRA Malawi strives to achieve through the sharing of knowledge and the provision of vital equipment to give a group of committed individuals a kick start in achieving their development.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

TOT Refresher Training Meeting



May 27th, 2010 final day of a three day meeting

Author: Krystle Praestiin

It was the final day of the refresher training course for Trainers of Trainers (TOTs). 28 TOTs were participating in the refresher trainings and it was evident from the moment I walked into the room that each TOT was eager to refresh their knowledge and skills in HIV/AIDS counseling.

TOTs are appointed as leaders who are then responsible for training counselors within their local areas. The majority of TOTs are key religious leaders both Adventist and Non-Adventist, health professionals, teachers or other influential community leaders. Each year they are expected to train a minimum of 10 HIV/AIDS volunteer counselors, these counselors will then provide pre and post-HIV/AIDS test counseling, which includes teaching people about nutrition and providing referrals that link people with the health and social services they need.

Throughout the course of the meetings I got a chance to speak with some of the TOTs. It was rewarding to learn from them how important being a TOT was for themselves, their families and their communities.

Ethel Madondolo, as been a TOT for two years previously she had just been working as a counselor. In the past two years she has trained 20 volunteer counselors in Blantyre. She told me that she has enjoyed learning new skills and knowledge about counseling, nutrition and Human Rights. All that she has learnt has also benefited her children as she is able to communicate to them information about HIV/AIDS and the importance of being safe in today’s society. Ethel says that the biggest impact she has made to her community has been to teach them about nutrition and how to use local products that can be easily obtained such as beans, peanuts and locally grown vegetables. Those who have listened to what she says have started making positive changes to improve their health and better their lives.

Abdulrahaman Sadat Kika Gama was another TOT that I spoke to. He has been a trainer since 2007 in the District of Phalombe and up until now he has trained 30 volunteer counselors. One of the best parts about being a TOT for him was interacting with and training counselors, as well as interacting with various Community Based Organisations (CBOs) and NGOs (Non-Government Organisations). The information that he has learnt, like Ethel, has helped him in the “administration of his family,” as he tries to teach them about the right ways to go. His training and knowledge has also helped him teach his students about HIV/AIDS, as he is a teacher by profession.

Abdulrahaman, together with a team of people was even involved in coordinating a self-funded HIV/AIDS campaign in Phalombe. The members of TOTIC each contributed their own funds, raising a total of KW 9,580, which was used to independently run the event that was held on the 19th of May 2010. The purpose of the campaign was to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and to promote HIV/AIDS counseling and testing. On the day they offered HIV testing and counseling to 73 clients- 56 were women and 17 were men out of whom, 5 were found to be HIV positive: 1 man and 4 women. This is a great example of what can happen when people are empowered with skills and knowledge.

The topics of yesterday’s meeting focused on community participation, self-awareness, and stress management and the theology of the suffering and HIV/AIDS and how it relates to the church.

The most inspiring part of the meetings for everyone, not just me, was the presentation on HIV/AIDS and the church. Pastor Petersen Kamanga passionately encouraged TOTs most of whom were church leaders, to show love and compassion to members in the church and people outside the church that have been infected/affect by HIV/AIDS. He expressed the point that no longer can church leaders pretend that church members are immune to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, in fact in Malawi 20% of the Seventh-day Adventist congregation are HIV positive. Giving the example of Jesus healing a leper, he stated that we must represent Jesus Christ, who never withdrew from people in need of His healing, love and compassion. It is therefore, our duty to love and support people with HIV/AIDS and if we are busy fulfilling this duty there will be no time to judge or condemn others.

It was a successful three day refresher training course and each TOT left feeling even more inspired and equipped to train the next 10 volunteer counselors.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The rain slept on the roofs

Author: Michael Usi

For what one would call literal translation of my vernacular Chichewa , I would say the rain slept on the roofs’ .It rained throughout the night and the following morning I was on a trip with Mrs. Thoko Mwapasa, Project Manager for RECAB (Resilience and Capacity Building) to Lisungwi, one of the project catchment areas. We started off in the rains to the site.

The field visit was aimed at assessing the crop situation in the drought stricken villages, monitoring the progress of the PD Hearth approach of restoring and maintain body weights of the under five children, to learn more on the ADRA/Government and World Vision Task Force for the Looming Hunger and appraising the Savings and Loan Committees.

On the way and more when we got to Lisungwi, the manager decided that we also should look at the progress of the Functional Adult Literacy (FAL) Activity.

I was impressed with the enthusiasm and fact based evidence of the progress of the initiatives. It was also apparent by just driving around that 2010 will be a very bad year for maize harvest in this area.

It was however heart fulfilling seeing in reality what I read in project reports unfolding. It was like watching a movie after reading a script.

Now a special moment arrived! The project manager started quizzing the FAL class students on spellings. The old ages and looks of the students were enough evidence t o believe that they would not pass the spelling quiz that Thoko had just planned. I was not very sure how the mood would be if they kept failing the spelling quiz. One by one they spelled their names right. It was r abe ka (Rabecca), then ro zi b e Ke ne si ( Rozibe Kenesi). I was impressed and wished Thoko had stopped the quiz at least to end on a good note. Then it was the turn of a lady with shy and timid looks. As if that was not enough, she had the longest name to spell. I wished she had a shorter name at least for this quizz! Immediately my primary standard 2 school time parachuted in my mind. I remembered how my teacher Mrs Damalekani spoiled my day.

It all started with us on the front seats being asked to spell when, what, which, where. My turn had not come till my time came.They all did well and enjoyed hand clapping. I was ready to spell why since that was the only word remaining on the list that was supposed to be memorised. To my surprise, my teacher asked me to spell under!!!! Everybody in the class sympathised with me. I looked at the teacher and do not remember to have been seeing her. I was in my own world. She repeated as if she knew that I thought she had made a mistake for indeed that is what I thought. ‘Spell under’. I just had to confirm my failure by spelling it out.

Now goes Asiyazawo to the blackboard. Beaming with confidence, she picked the piece of chalk, looked at nobody and went writing Asiyazawo. She stopped when she finished writing the name. As she walked back to her seat, everybody was either laughing, smiling, looking, shaking heads or admiring Asiyazawo. She did it. Coincidentally her name means ‘not minding your business’. I did mind her business of capability to spell her long name. She was toast of the day and indeed of the visit!

The women cited need to read the bible and sing church hymnals as main motivation for interest in FAL classes. I was impresses! Indeed where there is a will there is a way! Greetings to Asiyazawo and the class!



Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Functional Adult Literacy Education brings joy

..... Woman promoted after attending adult education

Author: Andiyesa Mhango
Women Empowerment Project Phase 2 (WEP2), ADRA Sweden, Sida

One of the most memorable moments in life for 27 year old Elena Benala, was when she was promoted at her work place, NASFAM, (an association for small holder farmers, Mulanje Branch) from a Warehouse Grader to Instructor. Elena is one of the many girls here in Mulanje, who did not have a chance to attend school due to poverty. However, once she started attending the functional adult literacy program in her village, initiated by Women Empowerment Project in 2008, her competencies were easily noticed. Her employer in particular could see Elena’s growing interest learning how to read and write. This brought on her promotion from paprika grader to instructor.
The changes in her life became so radical when her reading and writing skills combined well with her job and thus she was recommended to the company management by her supervisor, Alex Tembani for a promotion. Mr Tembani said he was surprised one day when instead of using her thumb to sign on the payment voucher, Elena could now sign her name with a pen. He also said that the grading job does not require any formal qualifications while being an instructor requires some basics such reading, counting and writing.
Her new position means that instead of grading crops, she is now responsible for instructing others and verifying the packaging of seeds. Though her salary is confidential, Elena said she is now earning enough to help feed her twin children and send them to school.
The promotion of Elena has ignited hopes among young women to enrol with adult literacy program. Elena is now proud to mention that Women Empowerment Project has contributed to the quality of her life through the adult literacy program in her village of Sitolo.
















Above Left: Elena displaying writing skill in front of her kitchen and opposite is the NASFAM Warehouse where she works.

When voices speak out, change takes place.

Author: Belinda Chimombo – Creative Assistant for LEFAM Bridge Project, ADRA Denmark, DANIDA

When we agreed to address the issue of alcohol abuse on our weekly radio program, Zatonse, little did we know the effects and impact it would bring. Zatonse is a weekly interactive advocacy program which is aired on Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) radio once every Sunday. This program discusses issues pertaining to health, human rights, food security, nutrition, gender and women empowerment, capacity building, water and sanitation and other relevant issues affecting the nation.

For some time the media and nation at large have been discussing the issue of alcohol abuse which is largely affecting our young people. Some media reports have indicated that several youth have died due to alcohol abuse, while others experience severe stomach swelling and the vomiting up of blood. The main reason for the severity of the alcohol problem is that, the alcohol sold in 30ml sachets are readily available and very cheap to buy, some only costing MK 10.00, which is less than 1 US dollar.

ADRA Malawi, concerned by the impact of alcohol abuse particularly by young people, dared to address the hazardous consequences of alcohol abuse. However, before airing the debate, we addressed the issue to relevant stakeholders such as: the Trade and Industry Ministry, the Malawi Bureau of Standards, the Consumer Association of Malawi, our City Assembly, the Ministry of Health (through the central hospitals), youth and members of the community who we felt had a role to play in discussing this issue and coming up with possible solutions.

For three weeks in June ADRA Malawi discussed and debated this issue on radio, focusing particularly on spirit sachets which have flooded the country and cheaply in public places or unauthorized places for selling alcoholic drinks, enticing even children to have easy access to them.

The first week we received feed back from our listeners, and conducted focus group discussion with the youth and community members, on how they felt about the issue and what they thought could be done.

In the second week we engaged a Medical Doctor and a delegate from Consumer Association of Malawi (CAMA). The Medical Doctor sensitized the listeners on the effects of excessive alcohol consumption, especially concerning spirits, which has a higher alcohol percentage. The representative of CAMA spoke about the role they play in guarding consumer rights.

Much as we had tried to involve these stakeholders in our second program, one pertinent stakeholder, the Malawi Bureau of Standards (MBS) refused to be involved, even though many listeners indicated that the MBS should be considered responsible for the flooding of the sachets into Malawi. This is because they are in charge of qualifying the quality and standards of any product in Malawi.
Although the MBS had refused to take part in the second program, pressure was mounting on them and after the second radio program, news broke that they had closed one of the unregistered manufactures. After testing, the Malawi Bureau of Standards had discovered that the manufacturing company had been using ethanol, a product of petrol or mentholated spirits, not ideal for human consumption. This was a very positive outcome for ADRA Malawi and the nation.

Apart from the closure of the factory, ADRA Malawi also noticed that key stakeholders were starting to treat this issue with greater interest. Actions initiated as a result of their interest include, the public sensitization of consumer and producer rights, both on radio and television and parliamentary discussions on the passing of a law to force punishment on those that are producing and selling these alcoholic beverages to minors. If it is passed the law will also make it illegal for minors to consume alcohol and for unlicensed places to be selling alcohol.

ADRA Malawi became the initiator of change. This success acts as an encouragement to everyone that when voices speak out, change will take place.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

ADRA Malawi participates in Enditnow Campaign ... End violence against women and girls


Author: Chikondi Madumuse & Krystle Praestiin

Event: EnditNow, Mulumulu Mission Campus, Muapasa, Chiolo District

Violence against women is an issue that if traced, could span the time of history. Due to their vulnerability women and girls have been the main victims of gender based violence. It wears many masks, often silent but always merciless and in some circumstances condoned and taken as part of life.

With this in mind, the Seventh Day Adventist church through its department of Women Ministries and Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) set up a campaign to end this malpractice titled, “EnditNow”. Together with the South Malawi Field Offices and ADRA Malawi, an afternoon campaign was organised on the Malamulo Mission Campus; one of the oldest and biggest sites of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Malawi. The site contains a Hospital, Nursing school, Health Science School, Secondary School, Primary Schools and Publishing house among others.

In Malawi Dorcas women are known for their hospitality and helping the needy, and on this day the Dorcas women took charge. Unified chants accompanied the group of marching women as they descended from a small hill onto the football field, the stage of the campaign. Some women held placards with messages like: “Stop Violence against Children and Women”, “Say No to Violence and Abuse” and “Adventist Women Say No to Violence”. These messages were also reflected in their chants.

Following their march several speakers began dispelling misconceptions about violence against women. They spoke with determination and conviction that Violence against women must end. Pastor Lubani, of Malamulo Mission stated that as followers of Jesus Christ we need to base our arguments against violence towards women on the Bible. He said that “man and woman were created equal and should complement each other.” He quoted from Genesis 2 verse 18 “The Lord said, ‘It is not good for man to be alone, I will make a helper suitable for him,” and stated that this verse has been misinterpreted because the verse does not undermine women but rather puts women at an equal level to man. It also states that women are vital in helping a man to execute his duties properly.

Echoing this message was the representative from the Ministry of Women and Gender. She stated that gender based violence negates the performance of women and girls, socially, economically and even spiritually. And that gender based violence has not spared church goers. Abusers and those abused are still in the church.

To conclude the speeches a representative from ADRA, Andiyesa Mhango, project manger for the Women Empowerment project in Mulanje, illustrated the various initiatives that have been implemented to curb gender based violence and explained that despite these interventions incidences are still high in Malawi. This can be easily seen just by following media outlets like the radio and newspapers. The issue of gender violence is therefore, a very real and very big problem that also affects members of the church. “It’s high time we take a stand to end violence in Malawi,” said Mhango.

The campaign to enditnow was an opportunity for the Seventh-day Adventist Church and ADRA Malawi to publicly take a stand against gender violence and to express God’s compassion and concern for victims of violence. The finale of the campaign was the signing of a petition that will be sent to the United Nations. The petition represents a commitment to ending violence. Those who signed the petition on the day were declaring their commitment to do what they can to end violence and to speak against it.

It is the aim of the Seventh-day Adventist church to obtain at least 1,000,000 signatures on their enditnow petition. It is their way of showing that Adventists have taken a stand to fight one of the greatest evils of our time and to enhance the livelihoods of women and children around the world.

ADRA Malawi has made a commitment to draw people to sign the petition as one way of voicing out its stand against gender violence. In signing the petition we are joining hands with people all around the world, to uphold love and respect amongst every human being regardless of gender.

Show your commitment to stamping out violence against women and girls by signing the enditnow petition. Visit http://www.enditnow.org/ to sign the petition and to join hands with people around the world who are committed to ending gender violence.

However, don’t just stop there do what you can to put your commitment into action- speak to your neighbours about it, be aware of anyone who may be abused and support them or donate to ADRA projects that work to put an end to gender violence.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Total Recall from dependancy

Author: Mercy Chakoma (Food security & Nutrition Officer)

Tsogolo Labwino Project funded by AUSAID through ADRA Australia (Salima District, Malawi)

Sometimes life begins at 40. At least this is what Metrina Mkumpha agrees to be true, she feels like a fresh college graduate, as finally, at the age of 49 she is able to handle her own money and run a small business, thanks to the support she received from the Tsogolo Labwino project’s Village Savings and Loans initiative.

Before her introduction to the Savings and Loans group Metrina Mkumpha as per tradition, hoped to become a respect elder in her village after spending 30 years in marriage. During this time she had become fully reliant on her husbands provision for basic house hold needs and the needs of their 8 children. She had no concept of one day playing the role of household head for her family.

Metrina could smell the sweetness of good fortune with the many children she had born. However, roses started to mix with thorns when her husband developed a drinking problem and later married another woman from a nearby village. Her husband spent most of the time with his new wife, leaving her alone and with little to no assistance, she couldn’t even get help from her children who had all married and moved to distant villages.

Hard times forced Metrina to learn how to participate in group activities. She joined women in a neighboring village who were assisting each other through round robin, fortnight contributions for two members at a time. With this arrangement she received K3,000 after two months, in a group of 10 women. Although this provided some welcomed relief she had to wait for long periods of time before the benefits could be realized.

When the Tsogolo Labwino project introduced the Savings and Loans initiative to the Chisangalalo women’s group, Metrina promptly joined. Upon joining the group Metrina was elected the groups chairperson. To ensure her total commitment she quit the first group, as per the requirements of the Savings and Loans group constitution.

Within three months of her time in the Savings and Loans group Metrina has bought K2000 in shares which has entitled her access to loans. Metrina says that the current initiative allows her to save whilst having regular access to loans when needed. If the amount for the loan is not enough, she will get back her shares with interest after 12 months which is double the benefit from the previous single saving group.

Already she has borrowed three loans. The first two loans Metrina used to start up a baking business before changing to tomato vending in April. The reason for her change was because she realized that the baking business did not attract many customers in the harvesting season as people have a wide variety of food to eat such as, cassava, sweet potato and green maize.

Metrina expects to buy more shares in the coming months through her business. She also dreams of roofing her house with corrugated iron sheets one day. She is very sure to achieve this dream because as chairperson of this savings and loans group and also a committee member of Kumanga Umodzi committee she has to be exemplary.

Metrina encourages all women to work hard, including women who have husbands because from her personal experience she saw the struggle that comes from trying to earn a living for one self when the man is no longer around. She has also found that men sometimes are more motivated to stay with women who contribute financially to their family other than just through household chores.

Have you guessed the conclusion to her ordeal?

The husband wants to come back home and is often found pestering their marriage counselors to reconcile them because he can now see Metrina’s potential in contributing to their household.

Metrina Mkumpha (in white blouse) selling tomatoes at her home stead.




Thursday, May 13, 2010

Tsogolo Labwino (Towards a Brighter Future)

Author: Krystle Praestiin

A cool breeze caresses my face as I sit under a clump of mature mango trees, listening to the rhythmic beating of African drums and women’s feet as they dance around the drummers, chanting songs that reflect the joy that comes from the lessons and activities that ADRA Malawi has been involving them in. Even the babies can’t escape the celebrations, strapped firmly to their mother’s backs their heads bop to the sway of their mother’s dancing. I laugh as the tiniest of babies sleeps soundly on its mothers back as she bounces up and down, seemingly unaware of the significance of today’s event, yet inadvertently, actively involved. It is truly a community event; even the chickens have come to the open day of the Tsogolo Labwino project (funded by AusAid through ADRA Australia), in the small village of Mndola in the Salima District.

The purpose of the open day is for the community to show case the project's community driven activities to the members of the community, village leaders, government officials and other interested NGOs, through songs, dramas, speeches and demonstrations under the theme “Extension that Works with Partnerships can Make a Difference”.

By far the most interesting part of this open day has been walking around the village to see the demonstrations of various activities, that ADRA trained leaders from groups called Kumanga Umodzi (Buildi
ng Togetherness) have been involved in. Activities displayed included: homestead gardening, manure making, water point management, and food preservation, food processing techniques (e.g. alternative uses of Soya beans), Saving & Loans groups (S&L), Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT) mobile clinic for HIV and Functional Adult Literacy (FAL) classes. At each station one of the Kumanga Umodzi leaders would explain what they had been taught and the process they had been trained in to, for example, make their garden or their manure, this was followed by a question and answer time for spectators who wished for more information about various aspects of the activities.

Even though I could not understand what was being said as they were all speaking Chichewa
(seriously need to start learning this language), I could understand the smiles and the gleam of pride in their eyes. For these Kumanga Umodzi leaders each activity represents an opportunity for a better more empowered life, not just for them but for their families and their community as a whole. The gardens represent a more sustainable source of food, the food processing techniques represent a chance to improve their diets and to start a small business to support their family, and the Functional Adult Literacy classes represent greater choices and opportunities in a life that once offered only one.

When I spoke with the VCT mobile clinic volunteer (34 year old Mr Amon Chimphepo, father of four children and also an ADRA community facilitator for the village) he said that because of the readily available tests and information being presented to them people have learnt
the importance of knowing their HIV/AIDS status. It is in the knowing that they can start receiving Anti Retroviral (ARV) treatments; treatments that help them live longer and healthier lives, lives that can save their children from being orphaned. However, he laments that despite people coming for voluntary testing and counseling they have a problem in accessing Anti Retroviral drugs which are found at the government hospital 30 km from the village. This impedes many people who do not have the energy to travel the distance every month to acquire the much sought after medication. Mr Chimphepo was trained by a government run project called Management Science for Health together with a lady assistant and was provided with a testing kit for the community. ADRA's role has been to encouraged him to reach out to as many house holds in the community through the provision of a push bike and diverse skills in leadership and group management. Since the project began in July 2009, he has tested more than 300 people for HIV/AIDS and today he tested 4 more people. He is very proud of the role he plays in the development of his community and so grateful for the encouragement that ADRA has given him to provide this much needed service.

Today, I saw what hope looks like and I saw how important it is to empower communitie
s with knowledge and opportunities to create for themselves a better future. Seeing the activities and speaking with the people was so uplifting and encouraging. It is great to know what I am a part of and if I had not been too shy, I would have joined the dancing circle and celebrated with them.

Note the ff:

FAL- Functional Adult Li
teracy

S&L- Savings and Loans


KU- Kumanga Umodzi (Building Togetherness)

VCT – Voluntary Counseling an
d Testing