Thursday, December 22, 2011

ADRA Malawi intensifies campaign against GBV

Certificate presentation at the function
Over one thousand people gathered at Chisitu School Ground in Mulanje on Friday December 16, to participate in activities marking the end of 16 days of gender activism for 2011. The event was spiced by dances, drama, testimonies and speeches, all depicting gender based violence.
Under the theme ‘From peace in the home, to peace in the world’ men and women sung songs against acts of violence that have destabilized peace in the homes, leading  increased divorce cases and poverty.
Speaking at the function organized by ADRA Malawi through the Enhanced Livelihood through Gender Empowerment Project (ELIGE), Traditional Authority Chikumbu who was Guest of Honor bemoaned the rising gender related violence cases in her area and called on men and women to take full responsibility to end violence. She said women and children become victims of gender based violence.

Simbota captured during the function

During the function, a drama show depicted how violence occur in the homes and the misery it brings. The drama also revealed a strong connection between gender related violence and HIV/AIDS, that divorced wives become desperate for husbands and the need for voluntary counseling and testing are often ignored.
During testimonies, sexual cleansing was mentioned as one of the outstanding forms of violence against women still existing,  despite calls to abolish some cultural harmful practices. The cleansing is done in secret especially when the husband has died and a man is hired to have sex with the bereaved wife as a means of chasing bad spirits in the wake of the husband’s death. If the bereaved wife refuses to do the ritual, the belief suggests that she would be victimized by evil spirits  that would bring calamities in the home.
Speaking to the gathering at the function Makweche Simbota 36,   who had been hired to do the ritual revealed that he had sexually cleansed 22 women in her village and was paid 1500 Malawi Kwacha ( about $9) for each activity. He said there were a few women he did not charge any money because he naturally loved them. However, he said that some of the women he cleansed died. Simbota expressed remorse and regret in his speech that he was involved in such activities.

Reacting to the testimony Traditional Authority Chikumbu thanked Simbota for being brave and open and appealed to all men and women involved in such practices to stop or face consequences if discovered. She however advised Simbota to go for HIV test.

A training session in progress for couples and chiefs
Another testimony came from Estere Baloni who told the gathering that she was married for 13 years and has 5 children. She was sexually abused by her husband for several years and later he divorced her.  She said she was struggling to feed and send the children to school. A few months after divorce, one of her daughters, Mary,   left her for unknown destination. The message was sent to her husband to help find her where about but he did not pay attention. Mary was found three years later working in a bar at Lunchenza and she doubled as a prostitute and was found pregnant at the same time. She was later taken back to her mother.
Speaking earlier, Andiyesa Mhango,  ADRA Enhanced Livelihood through Gender Empowerment Project Manager   said her project has intensified the campaign against gender based violence by engaging couples in health and family matters to reduce violence. During the function, 21 participants received certificates after undergoing a two –week long workshop as peer trainers. Participants included couples and chiefs. The trained couples are expected to train other couples and build their capacity to promote and uphold family values.
Andiyesa  said that her project is targeting girls and young women to support them with primary and secondary education opportunities.       
ADRA is also empowering women with economic activities through Village Savings and Loan so that they can be self reliant other than depending on marriage as a means of survival.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

ADRA donates ambulance bicycles

Written by Stanely Mpasa

As a direct response to the village transport challenges, and long distances covered to get to the health centers, ADRA Malawi has donated 12 ambulance bicycles to different communities in Chikwawa and Mulanje districts. The donations were made through the Train the Trainer Project (TOT).

from left: Ps Eliya, GVH Naluso, Stanly Mpasa and Ps Msuka during the presentation ceremony.
In Chikwawa four ambulances were donated to Malikopo and Nduna Village communities to serve a population of 2000 people. People in the two villages travel a distance of 16 kilometers to get to the nearest health center.  The bicycle presentation ceremony was colorful and highly attended by traditional leaders and community members.

In Mulanje, 4  bicycles were donated to 8 support groups at Chisitu to assist 1700 people. The other 4 ambulances went to Naluso Village community and the HIV/AIDS Ministries of the Seventh- Day Adventist Church received the donation on behalf of the community. The TOT project collaborates well with the church Department in the area. The church program reaches out to 17 SDA churches and a church community population of 69, 400.

A man lying confortably on an ambulance bicycle
Receiving the donation Health Ministries Department Director Pastor Eliya commended ADRA for supporting the needy. He said the donation would go a long way in reducing the time taken to ferry the patients to the health center.

Speaking earlier, Group Village Head Naluso thanked ADRA for the gift and pledged to put them ambulances to good use. He said the donation would reduce cases of patients dying before getting to the health centre due to poor transportation.  The Government Ministry of health was represented by Falece Kachingwe who thanked ADRA and the SDA Church for complementing government efforts through HIV/AIDS programs in Mulanje District.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Fighting HIV/AIDS stigma

Reported by: James Masauko
Written by: Krystle Praestiin

Speaking out against stigma & discrimination
HIV/AIDS stigma and discrimination viciously attaches itself to People Living with HIV/AIDS causing added grief and pain. Stigma and discrimination are rooted in misunderstanding and a lack of knowledge and it manifests itself in many ways including: being denied care during sickness, social exclusion, people being afraid to shake hands or share kitchen utensils, and even being denied employment.

ADRA Malawi through advocacy initiatives and strong partnerships is continuing the fight against HIV/AIDS stigma and discrimination- an issue that became vastly apparent to ADRA staff during numerous community dialogue sessions held in July.

A crowd gathers to watch a Drama protraying HIV/AIDs issues
We are partnering with key community leaders such as: the District Health Office, the District Assembly, Area Development Committees, Village Development Committees, and health experts to raise awareness on issues like stigma, to address knowledge gaps and to promote the rights of People Living with HIV/AIDS.

Currently, we are working in 25 Group Village Heads (GVHs) divided into 7 zones  and have been conducting community meetings, traditional dances, dramas, talks and video screenings. Our messages are about HIV/AIDS, HIV/AIDS prevention, the importance of testing, and disclosing a person’s status, as well as, the effects of stigma and human rights. We also have brought mobile HIV testing “clinics” to the communities far from local health facilities.

Mobile HIV testing Clinic
With these messages, ADRA Malawi wants people to no longer fear getting HIV tests or fear telling people they are HIV positive because fearing these two things is preventing people from getting help and it is also fuelling the spread of HIV.

In addition, our main aim is to reverse stories like the one about a woman from Group Village Head Chambala, who after 2 months of Anti-Retroviral Treatments was forced to stop because she was too sick to collect them herself, and no family member or friend was willing to collect them for her. Their misconceptions, stigma and fears prevented them from caring for their own family.

Group Counselling session

Sadly, this is just one story of many. Through awareness raising, knowledge gap bridging and human rights promotion ADRA Malawi wants to encourage people to fight stigma by respecting the rights and needs of people living with HIV/AIDS.

The good news is that since the commencement of these activities many people are now aware of HIV/AIDS issues including stigma and discrimination. We hope an impact will be realised as we go on working with different CBGs and stakeholders.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Goats are changing lives

Written by Krystle Praestiin, ADRA Malawi Intern

Emily with one of her goats
When Emily and her four children met ADRA Malawi’s WEP2 (Women Empowerment Project Phase 2) staff she had just left her abusive husband after a violent clash caused her to miscarriage.

At the time the now completed WEP2 project was implementing a goat bank program. Emily was identified by her community as a woman in need of help so she received one goat from ADRA. (Goats in Malawi are very valuable because they provide families with security and income as they continue to reproduce.)

Emily also became an active member of other programs that ADRA was introducing to her village including: joining a Village Savings and Loans (VSL) group, Functional Adult Literacy (FAL) class and an energy saving stoves making group.

Since her involvement Emily has reared several goats and currently has five. Emily plans to sell a few of her goats to help her put iron sheets on her newly built house- for which she sold 2 goats. Her involvement in the VSL group and her ability to sell goats has helped her provide her family with basic needs like: clothing, school fees, school stationary, hygiene products and food. 
Emily with her familiy outside her new home

Being part of the VSL group has also provided her with income to start a small business selling drinks which also contributes to her ability to take care of her family and aging mother. Emily hopes that as ADRA continues working in her village through its new project (Enhanced Livelihoods through Gender Empowerment) that she will be able to receive some business management training so she can develop a more viable business in the future.

Emily is a role model to her community. Through her hard work in rearing goats and actively participating in development activities she shows people the benefits that come from her involvement.

At home her family has confidence in her ability to care for them and they are proud of her achievements. They are also encouraged to work hard because they have learnt that hard work makes anything possible. Emily is no longer afraid and worried because she knows where to go to get money for help. Emily also looks at life differently because all that she has learnt has given her a hope for the future.
Emily & her goats

Learning to read, write and do basic sums for example, has increased her confidence and skill levels. Emily can now read basic sentences, keep records for her business and of her transactions in the VSL groups. Her involvement in Functional Adult Literacy Classes has taught her the value of education and she does all she can to encourage her children to continue in their studies because she wants them to have a chance at succeeding in life

Her education has also allowed her to become a trainer of trainers for other women interested in being involved in VSL groups, this will ensure that more women like her will be able to benefit from this program well after ADRA Malawi has left. It is our hope that stories like hers will become common place.

Friday, September 30, 2011

REFLECT training for ADRA staff starts bearing fruits in Mzuzu

Hetherwick Manda, HIV/AIDS & Media Facilitator, Mzuzu/Mzimba District

ADRA Malawi recently conducted a REFLECT Training Workshop for staff members involved in the Action for Social Change, Danida funded project. The aim of the training was to equip members of staff with skills and knowledge on how to manage REFLECT Circles in their respective districts.

At the end of the workshop participants were required to use the skills gained in their catchment areas to establish REFLECT circles. In Mzuzu the Civil Society Facilitator organized a series of meetings to sensitize community members, relevant stakeholders, and Traditional leaders about the importance of having a REFLECT Circle in their communities.

After several successful meetings, we are happy to report that in Mzuzu /Mzimba District five REFLECT circles have been established with committees and appointed REFLECT Circle Facilitators (3 male and 2 female). These circles are formed in the following GVHs: GVH Kaithazi (with 2 circles) and in GVH Kadambo Kanyinji, GVH Msafili Chavula and GVH Zakeyu Nkhambule (with 1 circle each).

Plans are at an advanced stage for the training of the circle facilitators who will be responsible for the day to day running of these circles. The good news is that these circles have already started meeting despite that facilitator are not yet trained.  This is a clear indication that these communities are very keen and have an interest in actively participating in these circles and the development of their areas.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

There is a new business in town

 Written by Krystle Praestiin, ADRA Malawi Intern

Rose Feza- entrepreneur
Meet Rose Feza she is a single mother of five children and a successful entrepreneur who had a vision for developing an energy saving stove business. Now her vision is selling like water in a desert.

Before she started her business Rose was finding it difficult to survive on piece works because it wasn’t providing a stable income. So when ADRA Malawi came to her village offering trainings in how to make energy saving stoves Rose jumped at the chance to learn.

Equipped with this new knowledge and access to funds from her village savings and loans group Rose started making energy savings stoves with other women in her village to sell to her neighbours and surrounding communities.

Rose discovered that demand for energy savings stoves is high because it is a new innovation to Malawi and it is very popular due to its many benefits such as: reducing the amount of firewood needed to cook a meal, which in turn reduces the amount of time women spend collecting firewood allowing them more time to do other things.

As a result, Rose is able to sell all the stoves that she manages to make within a week (usually 10), in just one day. She has even found that sometimes demand is often higher than she is able supply.

The success of her business has allowed Rose has make plans for the future of her business. Her visions are:
An energy saving stove made by Rose
1.    To open a little store at the local market where people can buy and place orders for stoves. This means that she will have a larger customer base and she won’t lose customers if she has run out of stoves.
2.    To start up an ‘energy saving stoves” guild with other ladies in her village who were also trained. This will ensure that the quality of the stoves is maintained and will give her village the reputation of providing the best quality stoves in the whole district.
3.    To scale up her production to 15 stoves a week by hiring someone to help her make the stoves.

 Since starting her business Rose can pay for her girls to continue their education in high school. She has also grown in confidence and skill and is now training other people on how to make energy saving stoves. This has provided her with another avenue for receiving income because she can charge money for her training services.

Another benefit that has come out from being trained in energy saving stoves making is that she is able to transfer these skills to her daughters, who are already starting to help her in their spare time. By passing on her knowledge she is providing her girls with viable skills to continue earning an income that will support their own future families.

Rose and her daughter with their tools
It is inspiring to meet someone who seizes an opportunity with great enthusiasm and turns it into something that can greatly benefit her family. It is also great to see that by providing Rose with a skill she can now make plans for her future because she is not worried out merely surviving the day.

All it took to transform this woman’s life and her family’s life was firstly her determination to make the best of an opportunity and finally an opportunity to learn a new marketable skill.

It is stories like this that encourages ADRA Malawi to continue providing communities with opportunities for education and training, in order to open doors to brighter futures.

Monday, September 26, 2011

VSL groups give money lenders the boot

Written by Krystle Praestiin, ADRA Malawi Intern

Money Lenders- those two words can stir up very different thoughts for different people. When you combine money lenders and the poor, depending on the organisation, there is little confidence that they are there in the best interest of their clients. This is largely due to various terms and conditions like high interest rates that see the poorer clients giving more than they receive. However, often borrowing money from money lenders is the only option for people to invest in starting or running small businesses.

Enter Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs). ADRA Malawi has been facilitating the formation of Village Savings and Loans (VSL) groups and training these groups to learn the concept of saving and loaning. In brief group members come up with their own rules to govern the group’s function such as the interest rate for loans and the maximum amount of shares a member can buy at each meeting. The act of buying shares and using that pool of money to give out loans provides its members with an alternative option for accessing loans. The best part of this is that interest on loans is paid back into the group’s savings box and this money is shared at the end of the year among its members according to each members share value. This means that each member gains rather than loses money in the process of borrowing.

The Village of Chilungulo has two thriving VSL groups with 25 members in each group. Since the establishment of these groups money lenders have had a very difficult time getting people to apply for loans. Before the VSL groups they received applications for loans at a total of 80,000MKW (USD$480). The last time they visited Chilungulo village they only managed a total of 19,000MKW (USD$114) and this was even after throwing in free fertiliser and three months interest free. 

The reason for this lack of interest in loans from money lenders is that people now have a better alternative. They see the value in VSL groups because they are encouraged to save and they receive good returns for their investments. VSL groups have allowed members of the Chilungulo VSL groups to pay for their children’s school fees, start small businesses and make improvements to their houses (e.g. iron sheets and pit latrines). VSL groups are contributing greatly to the development of communities and improvements in people’s lives.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Growing Trees without Water

Written by Krystle Praestiin, ADRA Malawi intern 

It might sound like an impossible task to grow trees without water but in practice it is proving to be very possible. ADRA Malawi is partnering with Nationwide Quiz Programme, Sustainable Environment Projects to spread this technique throughout Malawi, within its target areas. The aim is to combat deforestation and to curb the impact of climate change.

Stems Sprout with no water

So how does it all work? The planting technique is called “Truncheon” and it involves using the branches/stems (truncheons) of indigenous trees, like Mlombwa trees and planting them during the dry season in 30cm deep pits of soft soil. A diagonal cut is made to the top of the stem where it will ooze red sap; this is done to prevent the rotting of the stem as it grows. The next step is to not water the plant and to regularly check sprouting. Each year 15-25 new shoots grow at a rate of 1 meter.

Stems grow 1 meter in length each year- this stem was planted in August

This technique is proving to be very effective and communities are in awe that trees can grow without water. The “Truncheon” method provides many benefits to communities, firstly there is very little effort needed in planting and taking care of the stems, carbon dioxide is stored more effectively improving the effects of climate change, the most barren land can be ‘dressed’ up, the water table rises and soil fertility increases this improves crop production and even allows for boreholes to be sunk. The “Truncheon” method also means that trees grow quicker and are better able to replace those cut for firewood, providing a more sustainable source of wood for communities that rely on wood for many daily functions. 
Mr. Benjamin Chirwa

Mr. Benjamin Chirwa, the implementer of this innovative programme is very passionate about this method and is excited to partner with ADRA Malawi who will use its communication channels of TV and radio to educate people about the value and importance of the “Truncheon” method. Community groups that ADRA Malawi works with will also be trained to use this method.

Monday, September 12, 2011

ADRA Malawi chairs LILONGWE CIVIL Society Network (LICSONET)

Written by Chikondi Madumuse, Advocacy Officer & Ted Nyekanyeka, M&E /Research Coordinator


Civil Society Organizations in Lilongwe felt the need to come together and form a network that would enable them to raise their profile and create a platform to promote networking and information sharing among CSOs and other stakeholders in Lilongwe. There was a felt need for these organizations to interact and have a common understanding of developmental issues being raised in the district. The network would also offer appropriate representation at various development forums within and outside the district.

In some cases CSOs working in the district have not had a chance to showcase their activities and raise the challenges of project beneficiaries. Therefore, the network would promote and market CSOs activities through joint planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of development projects in the district. The network will also play an advocacy role and carry out advocacy activities or projects in the district, which are beneficial to member organizations and the communities they serve. Furthermore, the network would interface with Local Government, Donors, other CSOs and International agencies for promotion of good governance and human rights. Through its interface with the district council the network will lobby with local Government in enhancing service delivery in the areas of health, food security, environment and other key areas to improve welfare of communities.

The network would also develop and maintain database of all CSOs in the district.
In order to achieve its objectives the grouping came up with a constitution. This constitution would enable the network to operate in a systematic manner.

The network was officially launched on 24th August, 2011 at Lingadzi Inn in Lilongwe.  ADRA Malawi was elected as the chair of the network for a one year term. Other CSOs elected in the executive committee are Mai Khanda Trust (Vice Chair), Circle for Integrated Community Development CICOD (Secretary), Care International-Malawi (Vice secretary), Console Homes (Treasurer) and  Community Members are;
Landirani trust, DAPP Malawi, Self Help Africa, Family Planning Association of Malawi and CYCA. In total the network consists of over 20 CSOs including International and local CSOs.

ADRA has been supporting the revamping of the network through the Action for Social Change Programme which among other things is focusing on strengthening the capacity of civil society networks in advocacy. The programme is being funded by DANIDA under the strategy for Danish support to civil society in developing countries.

Speaking after the elections, ADRA’s M&E /Research Coordinator, Ted Nyekanyeka said, “ADRA is committed to this endeavor and would work towards making the network a vibrant one. ADRA appreciates the trust that members of the network have placed on us. We would like to assure the network that our commitment to the network activities will continue and we are encouraging members to fully support this network. We hope this network will bear fruits that will promote and strengthen our capacities as civil society organizations as well as promote interaction among us. If we work together we’ll produce strong voices for the marginalized.” 


Reported by Hetherwick Manda, HIV/AIDS and Media Facilitator, Mzuzu

This story is about Christina Kaluwa one of the founding members of Nkhorongo PLHIV (People Living with HIV) Support group, from GVH Mdilira Tembo. It is a story that emphasizes the continued need for the support of PLHIV through education, training and access to ARV (Anti-Retro Viral) treatments. 
Ms. Kaluwa had heard from one of her daughters living in South Africa, that with the Global Financial Meltdown ARVs will be very scarce and Malawi will not be spared from this problem. Upon hearing this she decided to stop taking ARVs on a daily basis, as advised by the hospital, and instead started taking them at two week intervals so that, in her reasoning, her body could build “resistance” before the drugs became scarce. Christina also felt that because she had been taking the ARVs consistently since the year 2000 that her body had enough ARVs to make her well again, and therefore she could soon stop taking them.

During one of her Group’s Therapy meetings she shared her decision with the other members. Her fellow members were worried for her and together with the Chairperson of the group Mr. Stuart Mhango, told her she was risking her life and that she should follow the advice of the hospital and continue taking the ARVs regularly.

The advice had been given too late and on the 23rd of July 2011, Christina Kaluwa tragically passed away.
Although HIV/AIDS messages have been promoted since 1985 when the first HIV Cases were diagnosed in Malawi, misconceptions of this kind are rampant throughout the country. ADRA Malawi is working with PLHIV support groups like Nkhorongo PLHIV support group, to address these misconceptions and to provide education and trainings. Through the new project Action for Social Change ADRA Malawi will scale up their support and will also train these groups in communication for social change approaches, so that they can advocate to the responsible bodies/groups for the provision of their needs - such as accessibility to ARV treatments at local clinics.

ADRA Malawi therefore hopes to prevent and reduce the amount of deaths like that of Ms. Kaluwa through the development of greater knowledge on the issues of HIV/AIDS and the empowerment of groups to support each other through successful advocacy for their rights and needs.


Friday, September 9, 2011

Literacy and Peace- Commemorating World Literacy Day

Written by Krystle Praestiin

She stood nervously in front of the microphone, paper in hand, smiled politely at the guests of honour and began reading her story. A year ago this would not have been possible for Ms. Banda*, sure she was able to speak but never did she dream of being able to write a story and then read it perfectly before a large crowd of people, her voice booming confidently through the speaker system. She told of her literacy journey, how she attended Adult Literacy classes and about her new found confidence in being able to read and write and perform basic sums. Ms. Banda’s simple act of reading directly from her hand written notes was a perfect symbol of the transforming power that being literate is having in the lives of many adults in Malawi.

Yesterday, ADRA Malawi attended the commemoration of World Literacy Day in Phalombe District. This year’s theme “Literacy and Peace” saturated the large school ground at which the program was being held. Coordinated by ActionAid in partnership with UNESCO it featured speeches written and read by women who were once illiterate, dances, music and dramas promoting the importance of literacy, and speeches by the guests of honour- District Commissioner Emmanuel Banda, Principle Secretary for the Ministry of Education John Bisika and Executive Director of UNESCO Malawi, Dr.Mkandawire.

This year’s theme Literacy and Peace represents the importance of literacy in upholding human rights and creating greater understanding and appreciation for issues concerning development. In a statement made by the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova she states that, “Lasting peace is founded on a respect for human rights and social justice. Literacy, the foundation of all education and lifelong learning, is one of these rights. [It] is a prerequisite for peace because it carries multiple benefits, cutting across human, cultural, social, political and economic spheres.” (Quote taken from: Literacy for Peace pdf, pg.1).

Of the 13 million people living in Malawi, 4.6 million are illiterate. The District of Phalombe has the highest illiteracy rate of the country with 38% of the 360,000 people living in Phalombe being illiterate. Giving greater significance for the location at which the program was held. The program aimed to promote to the local community and leaders, of which at least 800 were in attendance, the importance of literacy and to show how beneficial being literate is to improving livelihoods. It was also as an opportunity to express publicly, Malawi’s commitment to reducing the illiteracy rate by 50% by 2015.

So far “3,021 students are enrolled in adult literacy classes, [in Phalombe] and this year 239 students graduated from the program (it is estimated that there are 8000 classes country wide),” says the District Commissioner Emmanuel Banda, “[if Malawi continues to increase adult literacy classes] using the REFLECT approach it will also assist children in school through the encouragement of their parents, who will see the importance of education. Literacy will also help to increase participation in and understanding of development issues, such as family planning [which will improve people’s livelihoods].”

 ADRA Malawi has this year adopted the REFLECT approach to literacy in its Action for Social Change (AFSC) programme, Danida/ADRA Denmark and its Enhance Livelihood through Gender Empowerment (ELGE) project, SMC/SIDA/ADRA Sweden. Throughout the world the approach has proven to be highly effective compared to the Functional Adult Literacy approach which tends to be more academic, because it is practical and relevant, as it combines discussions of relevant community development and social issues with reading, writing and basic mathematical skills. For example, during a class the students might choose to discuss and learn about how to improve farming. Students will then discuss this topic and learn to read and write words that are associated to this topic and to perform calculations (where applicable). As the classes continue to meet the topics will keep progressing until each student is able to read, write and perform basic calculations fluently.

ADRA Malawi is currently training REFLECT circle facilitators who will be responsible for facilitating REFLECT circle classes. AFSC programme has established 34 circles in 34 Group Village Heads and ELGE project has established 19 circles in 19 villages. Through this approach ADRA Malawi hopes to contribute to an increase in adult literacy and empowerment and ultimately improve the livelihoods of many community members.

In his closing speech the Principle Secretary for the Ministry of Education said, “Let us all unite during this year’s theme of Literacy and Peace [to stamp out illiteracy in Malawi].” Together with Non-Government Organisations like ActionAid, ADRA Malawi is committed to improving literacy and peace through all its programmes/projects.

* not real name for privacy

Monday, August 1, 2011

Snap Shots of Success:

Compiled by ADRA ASC staff
Written by Krystle Praestiin

Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLA) are being embraced with enthusiastic, open arms. Women who have struggled hard to contribute to their family beyond household chores and cooking meals are now able to support their family by contributing money. Their new ability to purchase things like steel roofing for their homes or to pay for school fees, has brought them self-respect and the respect from their husbands, children and community.

VSLA provides women with an opportunity to learn how to save and loan money. Women form their own groups and develop their own constitution to govern the terms, such as interest rates and minimum amounts of shares that can be bought. As women buy shares, takeout and repay loans, the pool of savings starts to increase. At the end of every year the money is divided up between the women, according to the amount of shares each woman has bought.

Mrs Magnet Mulunguzi is 23 years old and has four children. In 2010 she became a member of the Chimwambizi VSLA women’s group. When she first joined the group, she was able to draw out a loan of 4,000 Kwacha ($26 USD). This made it possible for her to buy some farm inputs, which she used in irrigation farming (maize). After harvesting and selling the green maize, she was able to buy some more shares – after 9 months she saved 12,000 Kwacha ($78 USD), more than she has ever seen in her lifetime. Mrs. Mulunguzi used part of this money to pay for her daughters schooling (she is in form 2) and the other part she used to buy household needs, such as soap and salt.

“Ndzaidandaula ikadzatha ADRA-(I will never forget ADRA),” says Mrs. Mulunguzi.

ADRA Malawi has helped the group through capacity building in terms of training and providing resources such as a VSLA cash box and also regular supervision.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Essence of Development

Written by: Sara Thompson (Sara is from Avondale College, Australia and did work experience with us for three weeks)

Development is a great word to throw around – it’s a favourite of politicians and NGO workers alike. Everyone seems to be talking about development now days. As an International Poverty and Development Studies (IPDS) student at Avondale College, I knew plenty about development. But coming to ADRA Malawi to see field work in person brought my understanding of development from head knowledge to a first-hand experience.

The ADRA Australia project in Salima, Malawi, was just one of those amazing first-hand experiences. We headed out towards Suzi village in the truck, with Mercy, an ADRA Malawi staff member; Krystle, an ADRA Malawi intern completing her final year before heading home to Australia; and our driver, Godfrey, who did his best to keep us in relative comfort despite the bumpy dirt tracks. I was filled in about the project as we bumped along.

The Suzi village was one of the villages that had received a borehole as a result of fundraising in Australia, thanks to the Krystle Clear waters project. However, despite having received the bore, the pump had been disabled until the community showed they had learnt their lessons about health and sanitation by cleaning up their homes. Our task – to see how well they’d implemented their training, award prizes for the most sanitary and healthy living areas, and determine how soon we could open the bore.

The checklist – each household needed a pit latrine, a rubbish pit, a kitchen, a dish rack to keep eating utensils on, a smeared house and solid floor, and a bathing area. Through the village we went, checking off items on the list as we came through. This was development first-hand – these people lived in conditions that would be unheard of back home in Australia. A few small children started crying when they saw us and ran to hide. I asked Mercy why – she told me that it was because the children had never been outside this village, and had never seen white people before. They were scared by the colour of our skin!

The conditions were sad, but not hopeless. Thanks to ADRA’s community programs, those in villages such as Suzi are learning health and sanitation skills, despite their living conditions. And they were improving. The homes with the greatest improvements since the last visit were rewarded with prizes such as buckets and containers for water, brooms, and soap. When we left, it was with a hope that it wouldn’t be long before the sanitation of the village would be improved and the bore could be opened, giving life-giving clean water to all.

Our next stop was to a village where a savings and loans bank had been started by 14 women in the community. At each meeting, they would look over the books, pay back some of the money towards their loans, and encourage each other with songs and dances. By contributing a certain amount into the ‘bank’ – a locked wooden box, kept safe by one of the members – individuals could borrow money for improvements or investments, such as metal sheeting for their houses or starting small businesses to raise an income. They would gradually pay back their loan, plus interest, and another member would be allowed to take out a loan and the cycle would start again. It was wonderful to see this process in action, and hear stories about how helpful the savings and loans bank was to the community. The women also decided on their own initiative to set aside a certain amount to buy necessities, such as soap, to be shared throughout the group, and to contribute to other essential projects that would benefit the entire community. This was development in action, and it was great to see just what education and empowerment can do!

These experiences reinforced the essence of development in my mind – offering those in need a hand up, not a hand out. By helping to enable these people to help themselves out of poverty, we can help individuals understand and improve their own standards of living, without fostering dependence by merely giving them the things they need. Teaching people how to improve their lives, and helping them get access to the tools they need, is what development is all about.

Development. It’s not an empty word. It’s active, it’s essential, and it’s happening everywhere, thanks to projects that ADRA and other NGOs are implementing around the world.

Next time you get a drink of clean water, think of those for whom this would be a luxury – and of the things you can do to make developments like this a reality.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Communities for Change

Compiled by: Yankho Konyani
Written by: Sara Thompson

ADRA Malawi has seen some incredible changes due to the implementation of the Communications for Social Change Program (CFSC), and the community-based groups that have followed. The CFSC Program aims to help communities come together for a common goal, to assess the needs of that community, and to engage with the right sources in order to see their goals become realised. This program has helped to empower community members to become a force for change in their own local areas.

Some community-based groups have raised the area of HIV/AIDS as an issue of concern. In some areas, activities have changed from discussions to formal advocacy activities, and many of these activities have fuelled a desire for action. At the Kochilira site, a tremendous change in the area of HIV/AIDS has been brought about through the CFSC training. ADRA Community Development Facilitators helped facilitate the establishment of the Kochilira Network (KONET+) support group for those living with HIV/AIDS, to discuss common issues. The issue addressed was the incomplete implementation of Antiretroviral Treatments (ART) in all health facilities in Mchnji was a key advocacy issue discussed by this community group. During one of the community dialogue sessions, those living with HIV/AIDS brought up the poor accessibility to Antiretroviral drugs (ARV) because of the long distances these patients have to walk for access on a monthly basis to Mchinji District Hospital and Kapiri Rural Hospital. However, there are other rural hospitals in their area which would be far more accessible, if ARV could be obtained there.

The community group first approached stakeholders about the issue of making ARV accessible. When this had no effect, a petition was signed by the group village head, the traditional authority, and all those on Antiretroviral Treatments, in order to raise awareness of the problem and to urge leaders to action. It was submitted to the district communities, who influenced the District Health Office (DHO) to act on the issue, and strive to make ARV more accessible to those living in rural communities.

With an Antiretroviral unit established in September 2010 at Kochilira Rural Hospital in Mchinji District, the fight for treatment has finally been won. Communities who have previously been disadvantaged in the area of ART now have more accessible treatment options available to them, thanks to the effort made by the Kochilira community. This change was made possible due to ADRA’s CFSC program, which enabled those involved to confront the issues tactfully and persistently. As a result, those affected by HIV/AIDS in this area now have access to treatment, and those involved in the campaign have been empowered to stand up for the certain issues in their area, and for the change they wish to see.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Nutrition brings in the money

Story by: Mercy Chakoma
Food Security & Nutrition Officer, TL Project

Employment is becoming scarcer in Malawi. Many people are trying their best to utilize the resources available to them, such as small home garden crops, to help generate income for their households. When soya bean seeds were distributed in Tsogolo Labwino Project impact areas, the beneficiaries were happy to access free seed but worried about its limited popularity. Even though they were told that they would receive trainings in how to grow and produce various products they could not believe that soya could so useful in improving their livelihoods.

When the nutrition trainings began not many people participated, choosing to instead continue with their daily household chores. This was discouraging. However, since then people have started to realize the benefits of using different crops and learning different recipes. Tadala Juma is one of those people receiving great benefits from soya beans.

Tadala was struggling to help her husband provide for their family. She therefore, decided to utilize two recipes that she learnt from the nutrition trainings: soya milk and soya coffee. Acting swiftly, she started making soya milk which was selling at 50 kwacha, half the price of cow’s milk. She also sold the coffee at the same price. Tadala marketed and sold her soya milk to tea room owners who also increased their profit base. After one month of producing these products, she raised 48, 000 kwacha.

Tadala then bought a piece of land at 15,000 kwacha and used the remaining money to buy basic needs for her baby and to pay school fees for her son who is in form 1.

Tadala is very thankful to ADRA through Tsogolo Labwino project and said, “the good future (which is what Tsogolo Labwino means) would be realized long after the project but I am already enjoying the good future whilst the project is still operating.”

Through her obvious success Tadala was elected by her community to be a community facilitator for nutrition. Through her new role she is able to encouraging her fellow women to use soya and to make and sell various products. Her influence and success is helping other women provide for their families and to improve their livelihoods.

The success of this project can be seen through the sharing and implementation of knowledge, knowledge that is providing people with income to improve their livelihoods.

A simple soya bean can make a big difference.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Money can grow...

By Chikondi Madikiza-Madumuse – Communications and Advocacy Officer

The introduction of Village Savings and Loans (VS&L) looks to be a strategy that would enable Malawians especially those from the rural communities to have savings of their own and potentially to invest in small scale business or other investments ideal to them.

Last year, ADRA Malawi introduced this concept to some communities in the district of Mulanje. Mulanje is an area adorned with coffee and tea plantations and crowned by Mulanje Mountain and the Sapitwa peak. Yet, despite its beauty Mulanje is also densely populated; leaving a lot of people with only small pieces of land, while its adornments, the tea and coffee estates and land and wildlife conservation areas occupy most of the arable land.

Since Malawi’s main income generator is agriculture, the small pieces of land have made it difficult to make ends meet for the communities. At the end of the day they find that they do not have enough income to save after selling their produce. With the money they earn they cannot open a bank account; they resort to keeping the money at home and as problems arise the money is used before they can invest it.

But this is slowly changing. VS&L has brought in a different dimension in the attitude of villagers towards money; they realize they can save and make investments with the little that they have. All they need is a group, a cash box with three locks and keys and agreement within their group on the minimum cost of a share.

One group that was formed last year with ADRA Malawi’s efforts is singing praises for VS&L and more groups are emerging. The outcomes are overwhelming.

Secretary for the Sitigonja (literally meaning we won’t give up)VS & L group in Group Village Headman Manyumba, Stella Banda, says she had never received or owned Mk 6, 000 as her own before, but VS&L has allowed her to see and have that much money. The group comprising of 25 women saved their money for 9 months, at the end of these nine months, the members invested up to Mk 103, 360.

Ms. Banda says, “It was unbelievable; the first person – one with more shares- received Mk 10, 000. I received Mk 5, 800 and I was able to pay school fees for my three children two are in form two and one is in form four. One of our friends managed to renovate her kiosk with this money. We are happy that ADRA brought this idea. As I am speaking people are forming their own groups there are over ten groups in this area. Thanks to the training we received from ADRA Malawi we are also able to help other groups organize themselves to begin VS&L."

ADRA’s technical Officer on Food Security and Livelihood Mrs. Elsie Mwimba, says the response from communities has been overwhelming. “More groups were formed, more than we had planned and could physically handle, so instead of stopping these new groups we encouraged the groups that we had trained to share their knowledge with the self organized groups for VS&L," she said.

Apart from Mulanje, ADRA has also introduced this concept in Neno District and intends to do the same in other target areas like Lilongwe, Machinga and Mzuzu.

The popularity of these groups because of the contribution VS&L makes to improved livelihoods has resulted in groups spreading beyond ADRA’s target areas.

Behind the Scenes of Water for All

written by Krystle Praestiin

Monday afternoon we arrived at our first borehole site drilled by ADRA Malawi. I had developed a basic plan for what shots I wanted to collect but I knew that plans on paper aren't always easily achieved in real life. So even though I was excited about this opportunity to film a very pertinent issue affecting many lives in Malawi, I was not sure what we would find. I was worried that we wouldn't meet any women drawing water, especially because at this particular village people were expecting us to arrive on Tuesday.

However, what struck me throughout the whole filming trip was that at every part of the day you could always find women and children using water for various purposes, such as washing clothes and drawing water for drinking, cooking or cleaning. It sure made our filming easier and reminded me of the integral role water plays in all our lives. I was also able to see that it was much easier for women with a borehole to collect water, particularly if one was near their homes, compared to the women who had to walk several meters/kilometres for water from a river, shallow well or stream.

After filming the borehole and its users, we arrived at a village where the people have been drawing water from an unprotected, shallow well. My first thoughts were - "I can't believe people actually drink this water." Some unprotected shallow wells are able to at least provide clear looking water, but this shallow well provided the community of 100 households with muddy soup. Filtering the water requires boiling, cooling, and then pouring the water through a towel into a clay pot. Unfortunately, this process isn't enough to prevent them from contracting water borne diseases like cholera and diahorrea. No one should have to drink that water. And just to top it off, upon further inspection we discovered that on one side of the well was a colony of frogs.

The best part of seeing this shallow well was knowing that in a few weeks time, this community would be receiving a borehole from ADRA Australia and the funds donated by individuals and organisations in Australia from REGEN, COMOS, Avondale College Church and Sanitarium.

Before we left - in true African style - the women and children danced and sang a song of thanks to ADRA for a future without the need of drawing water from the shallow well. It was a wonderful experience, knowing that a big difference would be made in their lives from the soon coming borehole.

Tuesday saw us walking three kilometres away from a borehole to a village where, due to such a distance from the borehole, the community is forced to collect water from a river. Before we left for our walk I drank water from my water bottle, quickly deciding that I would not take it on my journey. I think that decision came from guilt for having such easy access to clean water. It was hot, and the distance seemed to run further away from us the more we walked.

We arrived at the village, where we walked a bit further to reach the river, the main water source for this village. The bank leading down to the river was steep and slippery - to think that women do this in the rain with heavy buckets on their heads! I could barely do it in the dry with just a pen and a folder to carry. As we filmed, I learned from our guide that during the rainy season the river becomes "fierce", rising in volume and speed. At times people from the village have found human bones and clothes washed down from villages further up stream. Not many of us can say we find such things in our drinking water or experience life or death when getting a drink.

When filming was completed for that day, we faced the long walk back to the car and clean water. Water was much needed, as our long journey back saw us all getting very thirsty. I tried not to talk often in an attempt to maintain moisture inside my body. The whole party was very parched by the time we arrived back at the car where my large water bottle of iced water welcomed us all. I cannot imagine having to walk to a river in the hot sun to collect water, and then wait for it to boil and cool before I could drink it. Yet this journey of my own helped me to experience the reality of many communities in Malawi.

On Wednesday we filmed our main actress. We had hoped to film her during the very early morning just as the sun was rising. To do this we got up at 3 am and began our journey to the village, although as it turned out, even as the sun was rising there was not enough light to get a good picture on camera. Sadly our commitment did not show on the water documentary, but despite the lack of footage, it was a good chance to see the village coming alive- from the burst of flames at various households, to the women, bucket in hand, walking in the early morning grey to collect their first bucket of water. At the river we also saw many of the activities that get preformed besides collecting water, such as washing clothes, cleaning food, washing hair and (much to one ladies enthusiasm for being on camera) other body parts (note: this was not actually filmed, and her privacy was somewhat maintained), all of this just within the same area that women were collecting drinking water.

To get somewhat clean water, women will dig out small holes in the river, creating a kind of well, however as we learned from many people that we interviewed the only way to combat water borne diseases is through a borehole which provides protected and clean water.

Our last day of filming was to collect any shots we had missed. Overall, the filming trip was a big learning experience, and it was amazing to see the difference that a borehole can make. Whenever we interviewed people with a borehole, at the end they would always request a borehole for neighbouring communities who did not have access to one. They saw the difference a borehole made and wanted others to share in it.

Currently, ADRA Malawi is drilling six boreholes, three of which were made possible through the support and donations of the individuals/groups and organisations within Australia. Tsogolo Labwino’s Project Manager Francis Zande says, "we are considered to be heroes by these communities. Instead of the planned three we are now drilling six. This is a great thing!"

To watch the water documentary video go to: and see what a big difference you are making and can continue to make to people in need of clean water.

If you are interested in donating go to: and donate to Krystle Clear Waters Project (Malawi).

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Bicycle Ambulance to the Rescue

Shadreck Bandawo, Institutional Strength Coordinator, Tsogolo Labwino Project

It was a very hot, sunny midday when I passed a man in his early 70s lying on a roughly made pole stretcher, cushioned only by a thin line of grass. He was being carried to the health center, nearly 30 kilometers away, over the heads of four men who looked tired and hungry.

Patrick Zakaria was the name of the man being carried to the health center. When he fell sick with asthma his community came together and made the stretcher hoping that he would be able to make the long distance in time.

To their great fortune, along the way they passed through one of ADRA Malawi’s impact areas, Namgogoda Kumanga Umodzi (KU) under Group Village Headman Chaseta. When members of the KU saw this group of people struggling with the stretcher they quickly informed their KU leaders of the need. Immediately the Bicycle Ambulance was brought to the group and Mr. Zakaria was transferred from the stretcher to the Bicycle Ambulance.

A sense of relief developed on the faces of the stretcher carriers, the wife of the old man and the other companions. The rest of the journey was a lot easier and quicker and Mr. Zakaria made it to the health care center in good time. To symbolize the end of troubles and as per custom the stretcher was dismantled and broken into pieces.

Early this year the Kumanga Umodzi (KU) group wrote a proposal to ADRA Malawi addressing issues that affected their community, especially sudden sicknesses and long distances to Health Clinics. In their proposal they asked for a Bicycle Ambulance to ease their mode of transport to the nearest health centre situated 15 kilometres away from their village. Thanks to the funding received from ADRA Australia, ADRA Malawi was able to provide this community and 18 other communities with a much needed Bicycle Ambulance.

Patrick Zakaria, from a neighbouring village would not have received the help he required without the support of ADRA Australia and ADRA Malawi. Bicycle Ambulances are a vital form of transport that saves lives.