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