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 to support this project.

note: photo obtained from - 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.