Thursday, April 29, 2010

District Executive Committee (DEC) meeting in Mzuzu

By: Emma Jakobo - Project Manager

ADRA Malawi is re-establishing activities with the northern part of the country, working with the city assembly as a partner. Working with new approaches in its implementation process and as CS which is a new concept in development the initial stage to win the would be partners’ confidence is a well understood presentation on what is intended to be done so that advocacy and partnership is achieved.
It is for this cause that a DEC meeting was planned and organised for stakeholders to be briefed on ADRA Malawi’s intentions for the City Assembly. Communication and advocacy are the core activities of the project in the region using Communication For Social Change (CFSC) approach followed by some capacity building and service delivery to a lesser extent as the project tries to strengthen the capacity of targeted CBGs/CBOs, including strengthened platforms, to act as CS actors dealing with HIV/AIDS, food security and sustainable livelihood related issues.
The executive committee members welcomed the project and pledged maximum support to the planned activities asking for continued collaboration at each stage of the project. The Chief executive expressed gratitude to the organization and said people thought the organization (ADRA Malawi) is for the southern region since it is more established there, but now that it has thought of coming here, the misconceptions which people had for whatever reasons will be easily disputed. He cited to the members the fruitful meetings on two occasions which he had with the directors of ADRA Malawi as the proper channel of entry to a district unlike how some other NGOs do. He said when an NGO starts going to communities before approaching the authorities at the assembly, the end result is duplication of efforts and at times conflicts among different organizations, and it is problematic for the Assembly to come in and resolve the conflicts which is always a setback in development.
Another area which sparked a contentious discussion is that of advocacy versus service delivery. By the look of things people will still take some time to understand the approach because the feeling is like people are too poor to advocate for their issues of concern and that NGOs would rather provide services than facilitate advocacy initiatives. The meeting helped to clarify some concepts which go along with advocacy, for instance strengthening partnership for CBGs to be linked to relevant duty bearers; sensitizing and orienting communities and their CBGs on CFSC approach which empowers communities to do their own diagnosis, identify possible solutions by local and national initiatives whenever necessary. ADRA will assist in the provision of a platform for Community generated voices to be heard by the duty bearers who can be legislators, policy makers and /or any other service provider.
In his annotations the acting District AIDS Coordinator commented that there are indeed a lot of CBGs in the communities but they lack capacity to go about with their duties and responsibilities. The idea of working with already existing structures is the best approach and what these groups need is capacity building for them to know and be able to carry out what they are supposed to as a CS.
Partnership is a key approach to any development effort and this is the closing message which was passed across to all stakeholders by ADRA Malawi for cost effectiveness.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Cassava Cuttings restore HOPE

As Tsogolo Labwino project is still in its first year, it is endeavoring in ensuring the decrease of household food insecurity. The project through its institutional trainings, equipped local leaders with skills of community mobilization and needs assessment that led to proactive ness in soliciting problems and solutions.

Tasizio Juvinala 83years old has no children but is able bodied such that he does all field activities alone. He migrated from his home village Mtakataka in Dedza district to settle in Mkwatire village in Salima district, the home of his wife following traditional demands.

Tasizio prepares his two acre farm earlier in the season ready for the first rains. This year, it never rained but poured for him when the area had experienced dry spell and with the poor soils in his farm, maize crop did not germinate well. He was hope less. Later he attended a community meeting convened by the Village Development Committee (VDC) in the area to collect communal suggestions on alternatives to the situation. Upon assessment his farm was among the drought affected fields.

The VDC and community agreed on looking for drought resistant crops such as sweet potato vines and cassava cuttings. When the request for assistance was presented to Tsogolo Labwino project, cassava cuttings were considered for its multipurpose consumption use of making flour, eating raw and cooking the tubers. Tasizio was one of cassava cuttings beneficiary hence he cleared some part of his field and also uprooted stunted maize plants to have enough plot for the cassava.

He was lucky because the same day he planted the 2 bundles of the cuttings on 0.15 acre, the area received heavy rainfall which boosted the crop establishment. Now he is still clearing additional piece of land to plant some more cuttings and says he will regenerarte planting materials from the first plants.

Tasizio expects to have problems in acquiring maize as it is staple food in the area but says he will be supplementing with the cassava because the variety matures in 6-8months.He is encouraging his fellow farmers to take care of their fields because despite his old age, his field is outstanding due to his hard work. He thanks the project for good gesture when he had no hope, he narrates that the dry spell left many people what would befall them later in the season.

Author: Mercy Chakoma (ADRA Malawi – Tsogolo Labwino Project)

Pict 1 - Tasizio on site training on ADRA's cassava cuttings and how to get the best out of it.

Pict 2 - Tasizio's failed maize crop field.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

First time Malawi

Tentatively I stepped off the plane and onto Blantyre Airport’s melting hot tarmac. It was a very surreal experience, if I closed my eyes I could just as well be back at home, and maybe if I opened them again that’s exactly where I would be, in Australia, in my bed dreaming. However, this was not a dream, it was very real. I paused, briefly reflecting on the possible adventures to come, even though I had no concept of what they would be.

My placement in Mulanje district turned out to be just that- an unimagined adventure, and the next thing I knew I was speeding along the motor way to spend a month in beautiful Mulanje; the home of lusciously green tea plantations and the majestic Mulanje Mountain that towers over the district like a Chief on his high Chief’s chair.

The purpose of my placement in Mulanje was to experience the day-to-day functions of an ADRA project, in particular the Women Empowerment Project, phase 2 (WEP2), funded by SIDA through ADRA Sweden. It was on this project that I saw first hand the vital need for water and the joyful excitement that comes with the installation of a water pump.

Upon arrival at my first African village, I was greeted by the loud humming of a big yellow drill twisting its way into the earth and the gushing of water as it burst out triumphantly from its freshly drilled hole. A crowd of excited women and children formed around the site smiling and chattering happily with each other. While others just stood in silent awe as the coolness of run away water droplets landed on their faces. It would still take some time for the water to come out clean but even now, in its brown muddy state, it represented a life changing

hope for each villager.

Before the borehole, women and young girls would awaken to the darkness of early morning at around three or four am and walk for 30 minutes of more to their nearest source of water, which in many cases is unclean- the culprit of water-borne diseases. This ritual of collecting water is performed more than five times a day. Imagine taking four hours or more just to have enough water to drink, bathe in, cook with and perform other household duties like washing up.

Having close access to clean drinking water is vital for the development of a community. It prevents sickness that takes people away from work or school and it gives women for example, more time to be involved in Income Generating Activities (IGAs) or Functional Adult Literacy (FAL) classes.

One of the women I spoke to exclaimed excitedly that this new borehole would make such an improvement to her life by reducing the amount of time spent fetching water, so much so that she wished I could arrange for a borehole to be built right near her home. If only it was that easy.

My time in these villages taught me to see with different eyes the true value of water and the key role it plays in improving the lives of communities.

Author: Krystle Praestiin

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Importance of Partnerships in Decentralized Governance.

Author: Francis Zande, ADRA Malawi Tsogolo Labwino Project Manager.


This is a lesson sharing and reflection initiative coming from a program experience in ADRA Malawi projects of SAFARI(Southern Africa Food Security and Aids Response Initiative) and LICEN(Local Initiative For Community Empowerment) in Ntcheu district and Tsogolo Labwino project in Salima district with funding from ADRA Austaralia. Each of the three projects has used an approach that works with the grass root below the last level of decentralized structure at village level. This approach has been called Kumanga Umodzi (building togetherness) and it has brought together a few villages to identify and address a number of development activities in their area. This has also helped ADRA to easily work with communities at small cluster levels and bring a deeper understanding of the need to work in groups and or partnerships.

Are these institutions important

The model that ADRA Malawi has used at village has ensured participation of many clustered community members and getting involved in development activities. This has ensured some significant representation of community members at various levels of development plans. The Kumanga Umodzi institution has consolidated the decentralized structures in such a way that most defunct Village Development Committees have awaken up from slumber and are held accountable for non performance.

The trickling up effect

Tsogolo Labwino Project in Salima is enjoying some sweet partnerships with different stakeholders ranging from government departments, NGOs, CBOs and Networks. ADRA is currently chairing the Salima Civil Society Forum ( a composition of about 20 civil society organizations) barely 6 months of opening an office in Salima. ADRA is also in the steering committee on Disaster Preparedness in the district. This is because of its keen interest to work in partnerships and share lessons and experiences. ADRA(as chair) has also lobbied Civil Society Agriculture Network (CISANET) to start a capacity building program for organizations in the Salima Civil Society Forum in the areas of food security.

Currently ADRA through Tsogolo Labwino Project is involved in a People in Planning program (PiP) involving three NGOs i.e CARE, CONCERN UNIVERSAL and ADRA that aims at documenting best procedures for engaging grass root institutions that fall below the decentralized in communities. Already this is cementing effective collaboration among different NGOs in sharing experiences and lessons.

All this effort in making effective partnerships is a way of creating a conducive environment for grass root institutions to take a leading role in decision making that will help nurturing good governance at local level.


The key to achieve the partnerships that ensure promotion of accountability and good governance is for key players in the facilitation process(government institutions, NGOs, CBOs, Networks e.t.c) to come together and understand each other before engaging the grass root level.

In the photo: Partner NGO's CARE, ADRA,CONCERN UNIVERSAL on a People in Planning Decentralization sharing workshop in Salima.

Friday, April 16, 2010

M'biza Community Based Support to orphans

One of the major activities of the LEFAM Project was to establish an Income Generating Activity for the Community in several communities where the Project was implementing its activities. This initiative would generate the funds required to support the other interventions like Home Based Care (HBC) and Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) care.

Since these are very much vulnerable , it was determined that the HBC Clients and OVCs would need material items like food, clothes, soap, drugs, school uniforms and other needs once in a while. But at the same time it was also determined that ADRA could not provide these items all the time as the Project had a time frame and the budget would not allow it. The IGA would, therefore, generate the funds that would be used to procure these needed items even beyond the Project time. This would empower the Community to support the needy.

At M’biza, the community chose egg production as thier business and they were provided with 200 chickens which started laying eggs at the end of December, 2009.

The Committee that is running the IGA was initially supported by ADRA which provided the required feeds and other materials. This support was withdrawn in January and the Committee has since been using funds generated from the sale of the eggs to support its operations.

At the end of March, 2010, the Committee decided to make a start in fulfilling its obligations of, among other things, supporting the needy. They agreed to start with orphans and they bought 3 bags of maize which was shared among 12 orphans from 5 villages of Sulumba, Misuli, Chakuuma, Chipwaila and M’biza. Each received 12.5 kgs which, although not lasting too long, gave an indication of things to come as the business progresses.

It is very exciting to see Community Based Organizations that formally partnered with ADRA being able to stand on it’s on and fulfilling their mission to contribute to the development of their community.

Reported by: Stanley Mpasa, District Coordinator, Mulanje.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Attending Literacy classes

For most followers of this blog reading and writing is a given in life; however in Malawi, official estimates point to over 4.6 Million people out of 13 M that do not have the ability to read and write. From those, the vast majority reside in the rural areas and way over half are women.

In a recent visit to one of our projects in the district of Mulanje, I was able to participate in one of the Functional Adult Literacy classes that ADRA promotes. It was a special moment to see women that had spent their life asking someone else to read or write for them stand and proudly write their name, read a text, or demonstrate their numeracy skills. From the several conversations with the persons attending the Literacy class, it was clear that knowing how to read had increased these women’s self esteem and exposed them to new opportunities to engage in small business partnerships. To support this new interest and development initiative ADRA has trained these groups on how to establish a Village Savings and Loans Fund, functioning entirely with the group contributions and management. These funds are set up to allow these women to access a loan or to have the money they invest earn interest.

ADRA Malawi is providing access to literacy classes to 1000 people per year in Mulanje, specially targeting women, and has similar literacy programs in two other districts (Neno and Salima).

ADRA Malawi has reached with development and relief activities over 160.000 people in 2009 and is an active member of the ADRA worldwide network present in over 120 countries.

Author: Emanuel da Costa