Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Post titleGroundnuts, soybeans can replace tobacco –LL farmers

By Baxter Chilombo -Food Security Facilitator, Lilongwe

ADRA Malawi conducted series of meetings in Traditional Authority Tsabango in Lilongwe to find lasting solutions to challenges farmers face in the wake of low tobacco prices during the previous marketing seasons.

Tobacco is the main cash crop in the area and lower sales have left many farmers helpless, a situation that called for diversity and reduced dependency on the crop as it is now facing anti-smoking campaign in Malawi and globally. As a consequence, the future of tobacco is uncertain and farmers needed a possible replacement. 

Farmers planning activities during one of the meetings.

A tobacco farmer, Mr Phiri who has depended on the crop for over 15 years could not believe the sudden slump on the sales in the previous marketing seasons and expressed fear of increased poverty if farmers do not diversify.

ADRA Malawi through the Action for Social Change program mobilised 360 farming households to discuss alternative crops to replace tobacco.  During the discussions several crops were analysed looking into consideration all possibilities in terms of production and marketing and famers settled on groundnuts and soybeans as possible replacements.

Farmers said the climate is conducive for soybeans and groundnuts and that they have high market value.

Women participation in the discussion was encouraging
This growing season many farmers have grown these crops and ADRA Malawi is linking farmers to agri-business companies and organisations for market accessibilities.

ADRA Malawi has already facilitated formation of 18 market oriented interest groups in the area, each with 20 members to organize small scale farmers and lobby for good prices and conduct market research among other objectives.

ADRA Malawi is also building the capacity of the interest groups in development and agribusiness. The groups are also mentored and encouraged to take farming as a business.
“For decades, we have been growing for sale, marketing strategies have not been given any close attention and we ended up selling our produce at low prices. Its high time we started  thinking of producing for business and select crops that we know better have potential for market and above all we grow as a group’, advised Mr Phiri,  a member of Njobvu Interest Group.
 One of the group members concurred with Mr. Phiri, saying that producing for business can help farmers realise their dreams.
“One thing that I have noted is that venturing into agri-based business cannot be done single handed. It needs all of us to work together because there is no way we can satisfy a market with produce from a few farmers’, noted Mr. Thutambala, a member of  Chiyingira Interest Group.   
Farmer representatives from different interest groups meet on monthly rotational basis to discuss issues of their concerns. In December,  farmer representatives went to a Seed Company (Seed Co) to lobby for inputs and they succeeded securing them.

The Action for Social Change Program is being funded by Denmark.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

ADRA Malawi holds annul staff meeting

Chikondi Madikiza-Madumuse – Communications &Advocacy Officer 

ADRA Malawi organised a one day staff meeting on 23rd January in Blantyre for the year 2012. Even though Blantyre drizzled for four days, the weather did not dampen the spirit of staff members.
The meeting aimed at building the relationships among staff members. In his opening remarks acting County Director for ADRA Malawi Michael Usi said ADRA has come a long way and every staff member is of integral importance to the organization.
“This is an important meeting for ADRA Malawi and every member of staff should know that he/she is important to this organization and ADRA is called ADRA because staff members form part of its citizenship,” said Usi.
He urged staff members to be open- minded and explore other and new ways of making ADRA a better working place for everyone.
During the meeting several questions were presented to the staff members in groups so that members would have a better understanding of ADRA’s goal and vision. Discussions of these questions would enable staff members to be on the same footing as regards to ADRA’s vision. The staff members were grouped according to their level of authority to allow them discuss freely.
Mr Usi addressing ADRA staff
ADRA staff members felt the meeting would help strengthen team work and also build up relationships among staff since the meeting offered a rare opportunity for ADRA staff from different projects to interact.
Staff members spoke openly of issues of concern and of particular interest was on how staff members weighed their sense of belonging in ADRA Malawi – Did they regard themselves as part of of ADRA Malawi or aliens in the organization?
Mr Zande and other ADRA staff members

It was interesting and encouraging that most staff members felt they were the rightly placed members of the organization.
During the meeting the Acting Country Director also congratulated one of the Project Managers Mr. Francis Zande on his effort to come up with a proposal that has seen a project emanate in Mwanza District to respond to the climate change challenge.
“I would like to ask you to come with proposals or concept notes so that ADRA has more projects coming. Francis has done us pride. He wrote a proposal and we are receiving funding and people have been employed because of this,” Usi said.
On the other hand management accepted that there has been a shortfall in the department of Human Resources where ADRA does not have a permanent officer at present but pledged that the issue is being looked into and soon the vacancy would be filled.
At the end,   members of staff echoed that the meeting was relevant and said it would be more meaningful  if what was  discussed would be implemented. 
A cross section of ADRA staff during the meeting
Presently ADRA has four projects and one program, Tsogola Labwino (TL) Project operating in Salima; Trainers of Trainers in HIV (TOT) operating in Mangochi, Mulanje, Phalombe, Blantyre; Enhanced Livelihood through Gender Empowerment (ELGE) project operating in Mulanje; Enhanced Community Resilient (ECRP) Project operating in Mwanza, lastly Action For Social Change Program operating in Mulanje , Machinga, Lilongwe and Mzuzu.

Friday, January 13, 2012

ADRA Malawi, partners break barriers of discrimination in Lilongwe

By James Masauko and Elias Banda

Five hundred people have undergone HIV Counseling and Testing (HCT) procedures in Traditional Authority Tsabango in Lilongwe after a series of meetings organized by ADRA Malawi aimed at breaking barriers of stigma and discrimination. The campaign was conducted ahead of the World AIDS Day that fell on December 1.

ADRA Malawi through the Action for Social Change Program earlier conducted the Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) in the area which revealed gruesome forms of discrimination for those living with HIV.

The PRA exposed facts that people living with HIV could not be allowed to share their kitchen utensils and food. HIV positive people were also excluded on list of people legible for government fertilizer subsidy program fear that they might die soon.

TA Tsabango addressing  people
condom demonstration during one of the meetings
In some cases, hand shaking with those suspected to be HIV positive was avoided as people feared they might contract the virus. The community notion on HIV positive people made it difficult for people to disclose their status for fear that they might not be easily accepted by the society.

The high level of discrimination in the area forced Lilongwe District Council to chose Traditional Authority Tsabango as venue for 2011 World AIDS Day commemoration.

ADRA Malawi conducted a series of meetings in 25 group village communities emphasizing on the need to end discrimination and stigma. ADRA worked in collaboration with the Lilongwe District AIDS coordinators and other partners to lobby for the establishment of 7 HCT centers where 500 people were voluntarily tested.

Already, the campaign is bearing fruits and apart from the increased number of people going for HCT in the area, the number of support groups for people living with HIV has risen from 1 to 5.  A local chief testified that membership in the support groups has increased to 30 members from 10 in Chimutu Thapasa village community. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

ADRA facilitaes dialogue on elephants attacks

By Justine Kumadzulo and Elias Banda

Horrors of elephant attacks have reached alarming proportions in the areas of Group Village Nthundu and Mangamba in Machinga District. Hungry elephants are on the loose from Liwonde National Park, terrorizing people from the nearby villages and destroying crops.

 Last year, the vicious elephants invaded maize fields and destroyed crops, affecting 670 families. Group Village Headman Nthundu said maize and bananas in the river banks were razed down, forcing people to survive on mangoes.
There is a sustained fear among villagers that continued elephant attacks would threaten the food security situation in the area if a lasting solution is not found.

A Wildlife official addressing chiefs

The elephants have broken the National Park confinement wire and found their way out into the villages. Chiefs say elephants can cover a distance of 20 kilometers before returning to the National Park. The broken wire has not fully replaced despite complaints of frequent elephant attacks.

GVH Nthundu presenting his concerns
Attempts have been made previously by the Village Natural Resource Committee (VNRC) and the Park officials to resolve the matter but none had since materialized.

Recently, ADRA Malawi through the Action for Social Change Program (ASC) facilitated an interface meeting between Parks and Wildlife (PW) Officials and affected chiefs to find a lasting solution on the matter. The chiefs used the forum to present their concerns to the Wildlife officials.  Chiefs complained that affected families have not been compensated by government. PW officials bemoaned continued poaching activity in the National Park by the villagers and called on local authorities to sensitize their subjects on the malpractice.

According to PW Regional Manager Mr. Nyanyale, compensation would be done on extreme cases. He assured the chiefs that the confinement wire would be replaced and urged them to guard it from poachers.

One chief who declined to be named said the meeting was fruitful and for the first time, chiefs could meet face to face with wildlife officials. “ I can now see light at the end of the tunnel, I am confident the matter will be solved” he said.

Part of the audience during the meeting

The Machinga District Agricultural Development Officer who also attended the meeting advised that poaching could be reduced if people kept more domestic animals such goats, chicken and pigs.  

The Action for Social Change Program is covering 60 village communities in the area and many of them have been affected by elephant attacks. The Program with funds from Denmark is facilitating advocacy activities with community based groups in Traditional Authority Liwonde and kawinga in Machinga.