Thursday, December 12, 2013

ADRA Malawi joins the school feeding initiative

By Elias Banda

ADRA Malawi has joined a band wagon of other organizations to implement the community based school feeding program targeting 40 primary schools in 23 education districts of Malawi, responding to the nutrition challenges faced by learners in schools.  The project, which officially started in November 2013 under the name Nutrition and Access to Primary Education (NAPE) is being funded by Deutsche Gesellschft Fur Internationale Zusammenarbueit (GIZ) , through GOPA   Consultants.
 Out of the 40 schools, ADRA Malawi is targeting 12 located in 6 districts of Phalombe, Mulanje, Machinga, Mwanza,  Chiradzulu and Balaka.  Other organizations implementing the project are CADECOM and Total Land Care targeting 14 schools each. The NAPE project would span for 9 months as a pilot phase until September 2014.
NAPE staff under going project orientations in Blantyre
According to Emma Jakobo ADRA Malawi Action for Social Change (ASC) Program Manager, the objective of the project is to empower communities to develop, establish and operate on a continuous basis a sustainable school meal program at the primary school with resources generated within the community. She said the community would be responsible for the provision of food while the project would give them farm inputs and build their capacity for them to provide the school nutrition requirements.
At ground level of implementation, the project would collaborate with school committees, teachers and parents while at district level the project would work hand in gloves with district education authorities and nutrition coordinators.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Mangamba HC in clinical MC breakthrough

By Lino Limbithu and Elias Banda
Mangamba Health Centre in Machinga has achieved a clinical male circumcision breakthrough after registering 182 referred cases, defying the traditionally operated circumcision by herbalists known as angaliba in local language.  In 2012, the centre registered 134 cases and according to Aubrey Kambalame, Clinical Officer at the health centre, the rise in the figures was attributed to the intensified campaign on clinical circumcision campaign conducted in the area. Mr kambalame hinted in an interview that last year three boys were referred to the clinic while unconscious due to excessive bleeding after a botched circumcision operation at one of the traditional initiation ceremony camps. Kambalame said the situation triggered a spate of fear in the community as it was reported that apart from their lack of knowledge on clinical procedure, the ngalibas used old and blunt knives when cutting foreskins and the boys were not given any pain killers after the operation and they were left to endure the pain without proper care.
ADRA Malawi through the Action for Social change Program collaborated with chiefs and health workers in the area and launched a campaign against traditional circumcision. ADRA Malawi also facilitated a series of community dialogue sessions involving all sections of the society to find a lasting solution on the matter and community members resolved to take their children to the clinic for a safer and clinically administered circumcision.
The Ngaliba and the boys captured at the Ndagala last year.
In September 2012, it was reported that over 60 boys were detained in the initiation ceremony camps known as Ndagala for a month after schools were opened for them to complete the initiation ceremony which included circumcision, putting education in the area at stake.
A radio program facilitated by ADRA Malawi  called Nzatonse was recorded at Mgundiwa where community members condemned the practice and called on chiefs to take drastic measures on the matter.  When the program was aired on the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) last year in September, it attracted a wider condemnation as callers participating in the program wondered why people in Machinga highly valued culture than education.
Nevertheless, a spot check in the primary schools around Mangamba Health Centre conducted by ADRA Malawi in September this year revealed that all boys within the initiation age were in school, signifying a tremendous change in the community perception towards value for education.
The Action for Social Change Program is being supported by Denmark to bring about individual and society change in Machinga, Mulanje, Lilongwe and Mzimba.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

ADRA ASC Program meets stakeholders

By Elias Banda
ADRA Malawi through the Action For Social Change Program (ASC ) held a meeting with government stakeholders in Zomba to strengthen collaboration.
The meeting was held at Annes Lodge from 13th to 14th  November and brought together government officers, especially those aligned with program activities from Machinga and Mulanje. Participants included district directors of planning.
Emma Jakobo addressing stakeholders
Speaking during the official opening of the meeting Emma Jakobo, ASC Program Manager said ADRA Malawi was complementing government efforts and it was imperative that stakeholders were updated  at all levels of implementation and that their input would be crucial to help improve the delivery of services.  
The meeting created a platform where ADRA Malawi shared reports on achievements and success stories. ADRA Malawi Also shared the ASC mid-term review report and a research draft findings on Fertilizer Subsidy Program (FSP), conducted by Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR), supported by the ASC Program.   The meeting also looked at common challenges hampering implementation of activities such as low involvement of men in the activities and how to sustain volunteers in the activities.
It was reported that low male patronage in development activities was a general problem and was attributed to the fact that men would participate in activities which had quick results.  To draw the attention of men in the projects it was resolved that future project designs whether undertaken by government or non- governmental organizations, should consider reaching men where they are mostly found. The meeting also resolved that a common approach through district civil society organizations should be reached on how to handle volunteer incentives in order to avoid a situation where some organizations would give more incentives than others, thereby negatively impacting on the sustainability of activities.
Participants during the meeting
The meeting also agreed on joint monitoring of activities between the district councils and ADRA Malawi. It was resolved that councils would be free to contact ADRA Malawi or any other partner for monitoring of activities.
The meeting also discussed best practices on exist strategies that included community empowerment and linkages with relevant government departments.
In 2012,  a similar meetings took place in Blantyre and Lilongwe where ASC  program strategies were reviewed.
A similar meeting would take place in Salima involving stakeholders from Mzimba and Lilongwe.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

VSL magic; women dreaming big in Lilongwe

By Levie Chiwenda
The Village banking system commonly known as Village Saving and Loan (VSL) continues to unleash magic spells as women in Tradtional Authouty Tsabango in Lilongwe are now dreaming big after accumulating huge sums of money.
During the last share out event at Group Village Nkhulawe in 2012, Chikondi  VSL Group accumulated K580, 000 ( about $1, 450) and Elizabeth Lemani  got the highest share of K62, 000 (about $155) and the second highest share went to Rose Shaibu, who got K60,000 (about  $150).
Elizabeth and her cow

Elizabeth, 50 and divorced bought a cow for milk and four bags of fertilizer which she used to harvest 40 bags of maize during  the 2012 and 2013 agriculture season, the highest achievement for a single woman at an advanced age. Rose shaibu, also divorced bought six bags of fertilizer and harvested 48 bags of maize and she has kept some to be sold during the anticipated hunger period between December 2013 and February 2014 when maize price goes up.
Rose Shaibu at her house
During the 2013 share out cycle, the 20-member VSL group had K925, 520 to share (about $2, 314)and again Elizabeth and Rose hit the highest with K90,000 and K75, 000 respectively. At the close of the share out event, Elizabeth’s joy was over pouring and she said in an interview that she was planning to invest more in future in order to buy a maize mill.  In a separate interview, Rose hinted that she would buy more land and invest in farming.

ADRA Malawi, through the Action for Social Change Program has facilitated formation  and is supporting 56 VSL groups in the area and with success records reported, more VSL groups are mushrooming through  village agents. On average, women membership in the groups constitutes 90%.
Members of Chkondi VSL display cash during share out
The Action for Social Change Program is being supported by Denmark to bring about individual and society change in Lilongwe, Machinga, Mulanje and Mzimba districts.
  The outlook of the village communities is now changing as the banking system has revived hope for quick economic recovery and is seen as the best method of rising women self esteem.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Backyard vegetable gardening changing lives in Salima

By Mercy Chakoma
Life is changing for better among women in Salima after the backyard gardening innovation by ADRA Malawi through the Tsogolo Labwino Project.
Backyard gardening was considered after ADRA Malawi assessed that many women in Salima were not economically empowered and they depended on men as sole bread winners.
A case in point is that of Rosmary Jetifala who slipped into poverty after her husband, Mathias Jefitala was involved in a car accident and he eventually became incapacitated.  Speaking in an interview, Rosmary narrated that life became unbearable for her family when her husband got injured and she almost became a beggar in order to provide for the needs of her seven children and her husband.
Before her husband got injured, the family survived on basket weaving, a trade that Mathias had undertaken for 15 years.
In April this year, a ray of hope manifested when Rosmary joined Tsogolo Labwino backyard vegetable gardening training. She said the training was an eye opener for her and she realized she was sitting on gold within her 15 square meter garden in her plot after harvesting high quality vegetables. She said she sold the first harvest and earned K1, 700 (about $4) a week in June this year. She said that since many people had realized her quality vegetables, her market base had increased and she would be earning enough to look after her family.
Rosemary has since joined the Tiyamike Savings and Loans Group in her village where her earnings are expected to double through her shares.
Her lifestyle changes are sending a glimmer of hope to many women in her community. Rosemary hails from Kumwala Village in Traditional Authority Kambwili where the Tsogolo Labwino is being implemented.
Tsogolo Labwino is being supported by the Australian Government through Australian Aid (AUSAID) to improve the quality of life for people in Salima District.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

FBS formed in ASC program targeted districts

 By George Kamanga and Elias Banda
Seven farmers business schools (FBS) have been formed in Lilongwe, Mzimba, Machinga and Mulanje to enhance capacity of local farmers to produce quality crops through the use of conservation agriculture and other modern technologies.
Gift Mwnda ASC Lilongwe District Coordinator addresses FBS members at Dima irrigation site

The FBS concept was initiated by the Malawi Government through the Ministry of Agriculture and Food security to improve food security through quality crop production. ADRA Malawi is complementing government’s efforts by mobilising farmers into FBS.
In Lilongwe the FBS has been formed with members drawn from Chambala,Santhe, Tsabango, Chimono, Chingira, Mdondwe, Khundi and Dima group village communities. The school comprise 25 members of which 5 are women and it has special interest in soy and groundnuts.
 In Machinga, four FBS have been formed at Nanyumbu and Mbonachela with special interest in groundnuts, poultry and cotton. 
FBS members share ideas at Chambala demonstration site
In Mulanje a school has been formed at Chimwamezi in Traditional Authority Juma, comprising 22 members with special focus on pigeon pea. In Mzimba the school has been formed at Choma, focusing on soy and beans.

ADRA Malawi through the Action for Social Change Program (ASC),  is collaborating with government extension workers to ensure that the schools are strengthened and sustained. Skills acquired through FBS are expected to help small holder farmers to penetrate the wider market with quality and well packed products.
The ASC program is being supported by Denmark to bring about individual and society change in Machinga, Mulanje, Lilongwe and Mzuzu.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

ADRA Malawi to continue food aid in Phalombe

By Elias Banda
ADRA Malawi has been selected among shortlisted agencies and organizations by the World Food Program (WFP) and the Malawi Government Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DoDMA) to continue food aid activities in Phalombe District. The project starts in October this year and will wind up in February 2014.
According to the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (MVAC),  Phalombe is one of the 21 districts of Malawi seriously hit by the hunger situation and it is estimated that between April 2013 and March 2014,  about 1.4 million do not have food. The hunger situation has been aggravated by recurrent dry spells and flooding in the 2012/2013 agriculture season which resulted in low yields.
  Speaking in an interview, Hastings Lacha, ADRA Malawi Emergency and  Relief Coordinator said the program  would be implemented in traditional Authority Nazombe and Nkhumba, targeting 12, 912 households, representing about 71, 016 people.
The project is being funded by UKAID, USAID, WFP and
The DFID and Malawi Government teams addressing beneficiaries in Phalombe last year.
the Malawi Government. Last year between October and March, ADRA Malawi distributed food to over 12 thousand households in Phalombe district under the Emergency Food AID Program (JEFAP) funded by the Malawi Government and the British Department for International Development ( DFID)
Mr Lacha said that under the current program, targeted households would receive a food basket on monthly rotational basis comprising 50kg of cereal, 5 kg of corn soya blend, 2 liters of cooking oil and 10kgs of pulses.


Thursday, September 26, 2013

ADRA Malawi donates clothes to needy women

By Stanley Mpasa and Elias Banda.  
ADRA Malawi through the TOT Project donated clothes to needy women in Chikwawa District. TOT Project Manager Stanley Mpasa confirmed the development and said that project counselors had identified 25 vulnerable women who received the clothes at Ngabu in the district. Mr Mpasa said most of the
A woman struggles to stand for her turn to receive her clothes
beneficiaries were above 70 years and had difficulties to walk. He said two of them were epileptic. The distribution exercise was conducted at Makande Seventh –Adventist Church, about 2 kilometers from Ngabu Tradition Center.

The clothes were donated to ADRA Malawi by a Blantyre based Good Samaritan Vivian Mwakalgho.
One of the beneficiaries receives her clothes
Receiving the donation, one woman who declined to be named thanked ADRA Malawi for choosing Ngabu for the donation and Vivian for the timely assistance.

She said that it was very rare these difficult times for an individual to think about others in this way and that God should bless her abundantly

Monday, September 16, 2013

Crop diversification can make a difference

By Jossam Chiwanga
It never rained but poured on Lucy Dyton, a 58 year old Machinga widow who, for several years had been having low yields for traditional crops, rice and Maize. Her life became hard for her since her husband died five years ago. During harvesting time she sold part of the little harvest she got at Ntaja Trading Centre to meet family basic needs. However,   her income was not enough to feed her four children and send them to school. With the change of weather pattern characterized by  the recurrent dry spells and erratic rains, it becomes difficult to maintain high yields for maize and rice. 
In 2012 she was invited by ADRA Malawi to attend the agri-business training, focussing on groundnuts production, marketing and crop enterprise diversification.  She tried to put what she leant into practice and planted 20kgs of groundnut seeds. During the 2013 marketing season Lucy managed to harvest 900 kgs. She sold 350 kgs and earned K27, 000 (about $79) through which she managed to pay school fees and used part of the money to buy household essentials. Lucy said in an interview that her life is now changing and she feels she has the capacity to achieve more.
Lucy with her 2 sons pose for a photograph in front of her house
‘’I have realised the importance of crop diversification.  Had it not been for groundnuts which I grew with technical knowledge and encouragement from ADRA Malawi , I would be  a beggar’’, she explained.
This year, Lucy plans to double the amount of seed in order for to earn more money during the 2014 marketing season. Currently Lucy has joined Chisangalalo Farmers’ Interest Group formed by ADRA Malawi   through the Action for Social Change Program. She said she got more information and encouragement from her peers on matters of agribusiness.
Machinga is one of the districts in Malawi where rural women self esteem is very low and dependency on men for survival is high. When ADRA facilitated formation of farmers’ interest groups, women are now looking at themselves differently, with a high sense of self reliance. 
ADRA Malawi is supporting 14 farmers’ interest groups in the district with membership of 280. The Action for Social Change Program is being supported by Denmark to bring about individual and society change in Machinga, Mulanje, Lilongwe and Mzimba.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

ASC program staff team building part II and the fun on Lake Malawi.

By Peter Kaime

 Peter Kaime from Machinga gives every detail of the journey to Cape Maclear

It   was on 29th August 2013 when ADRA Malawi  Action for Social Change ASC  Program  team left  for  Cape Maclear, taking a break from team building activities.
off to Thumbi Island

We drove through Golomoti and Boadzulu Turnoffs and we passed  along the Nkope   Hills. The road was bumpy but we enjoyed every moment of it. The team stopped at a place called Mwala wa mphini on the edge of the stretching Nkope Hills to see the marked stone. It is an amazing, strategically marked rock and when you see it, you are bound to have two schools of thought; if it was done by our ancestors then what instrument did they use to mark it? And if  the rock was marked by natural forces,  what about the designed patterns on it, who did them? These were questions that remained unanswered as the journey continued.
The marked stone is such an amazing structure

As we passed through a few bends of the dusty road, we saw sign posts counting down to Cape Maclear and suddenly, the water front emerged on the horizon. We parked our bus at a place called Gecko Lodge and the team took turns taking photos before getting into the boat. The excitement was overwhelming.
We were 26 of us who got into the boat because other team members had reservations.  Those who went into the boat included the Claudio Sandoval, ADRA Malawi Country Director. When we reached a certain point into the water, our captains informed us that we were sailing on 250 meters deep. Fear and panic gripped the team as we discovered that there were only five life jackets in the boat.
Another moment of excitement came as the team approached Thumbi Island. The rocky Island is situated about 3 kilometers from the shore. The Thumbi Island shores have rock surfaces from where we saw multicolored fish species called Mbuna.  The rock surfaces were slippery and we needed to be cautious.  We gathered that Lake Malawi has over one thousand fish species.  The scenery around Thumbi Island was beautiful and apparently, no one resisted the temptation to take a photo.    
Younger boys band welcomes the team

After  an  hour,   the  team  went  back  in   the  boat   ready   to  go  back  to Gecko Lodge and it was not easy to leave such a beautiful place.
On arrival on the shore, we were welcomed  by the  West Life and Young Boys Band  that comprised     young  men and the  sound effects were fantastic, sending almost the whole team in a frenzy of excitement as they joined in dancing.    
Time was running out and it was getting dark we had to go back to our base at Nkopola Lodge. This adventure will surely go down in our memory lane as full of excitement and pleasure. ADRA is indeed a great place to be. We arrived safely and we ended with a prayer offered by Chikondi Madumuse.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

ADRA Malawi ASC staff geared to improve work relations

By Elias Banda
The ADRA Malawi Action for Social Change staff took a week break to undergo team building activities at the Lakeshore District of Mangochi, carrying the slogan ‘ ADRA, the great place to be’.
The workshop took place at Nkopola lodge from 27 to 30 August with an objective to improve work relations and team work spirit among staff.
Claudio, Mike and Chris during the opening ceremony
ASC staff during team building session
The function was officially opened by ADRA Malawi Country Director Claudio Sandoval who said that through team work, a lot could be achieved in the program and in ADRA Malawi. He urged participants to be focused and utilize the opportunity to generate ideas that would improve the working teams.
Speaking earlier, ADRA Malawi Deputy Country Director Michael Usi pointed out that building a better team would enable the ASC Program achieve its objectives effectively.
Participants to the workshop were drawn from all ASC targeted districts; Mulanje, Machinga, Lilongwe, Mzimba  and those from ADRA Malawi Headquarters in Blantyre.
The workshop was characterized by group work, debates, video clips and presentations on team building theories and practices, facilitated by Chris Maseya of Chrismas Consulting firm. ASC staff also highlighted organization strategies that works well and those that need modification to further improve team work.
During the workshop people elected the most inspiring people in the program through a secret ballot and the result saw Michaul Usi scooping the winner with 21 votes as the most inspiring person, Emma Jakobo ASC Program Manager came second with 7 votes while Denson Unjika, Office Assistant based in Blantyre trailed third with 3 votes.  The winners were rewarded with different prizes.
On Thursday afternoon, participants enjoyed 3-km boat riding into Lake Malawi from Cape Maclare to see multi colored fish species called Mbuna at Thumbi Island before being  treated to a dinner dance later in the evening.  


Thursday, August 22, 2013

STI cases drop at Ekwaiweni HC in Mzimba

By Susan Chitaya and Elias Banda

Cases of sexually transmitted infections have dropped at Ekwaiweni Health Center in Mzimba after a mass behavior change campaign courtesy of Tafika Youth Organization.

Records at the health center reveal that STI cases have dropped from 9  to 1 per month. An official at the clinic who declined to be named said the drop is attributed to heightened awareness levels as people were now easily accessing information on STI and HIV/AIDS.
traditional Ingoma dance mobilized people
Youth used banners to convey messages

In November 2012, Tafika Youth Group launched a behavioral change  campaign with funds from ADRA Malawi  through the Action for Social Change program. According to the organization’s Executive Director Shupo Kumwenda the goal of the campaign was to educate and create community awareness on matters of stigma and discrimination with regard to HIV/AIDS. He also said the other objective was to advocate for safer sex and other acceptable behaviors among the youths in the area.

Apart from the drop in STI cases, other notable changes include the low school drop out at Ekwaiweni Primary School. 'Girls with a vision’ clubs have been formed to encourage peers to go back to school and refrain from delinquencies such as beer drinking and prostitution. According to Shupo Kumwenda the clubs are engaging women role models in their activities to encourage the girls to put education as a priority.  
the campaign attracted huge crowds

A youth network has been established to link the community and the youths and recently, the network constructed 2 teachers houses at Chipapa and Malivenji primary schools and toilet blocks at Ekwaiweni Primary School.

The network is also collaborating with Malawi Police Service to curb crime in the area. By-laws have been formulated restricting beer drinking and bars have been ordered to close at 10 o’clock pm. A community consensus has been reached that anyone found drinking beyond the closing time would be arrested. The situation has brought sanity in the area, reviving hopes for a better community and future for the young people.
Tafika Youth Organization plans to build a Youth Center where the youth would acquire life skills and other friendly services.  

The Action for Social Change Program is being supported by Denmark to bring about individual and society change in Mzimba, Lilongwe, Mulanje and Machinga distritcs.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

LL Man nearly died after dumping HIV medicine for faith healing

By James Masauko
A Lilongwe man knocked on the doors of death after dumping Anti-retroviral drugs ARVs when he opted for faith healing. Manjalera Thutambala Banda of Kaole Village Traditional Authority Tsabango in Lilongwe tested HIV positive in 2006 and has since been on life –prolonging drugs.
 Banda joined a new church on April 28 this year and a pastor advised him to stop medication as church rules required that those on prayer list were not allowed to take any medicine.  
He then went into prayer sessions and after a night long of prayers at Area 23 in the city,  the pastor assured Banda that he was healed. Overwhelmed by excitement Banda went on rampage breaking the news and threw away all the medicines before dropping as a member of Tiyanjane Support Group where he had been an affiliate for more than six years.
Attempts by support group members failed to convince Banda to revert to medication or seek verification of his blood status at Kan’goma Health Center. But a few months later things began to change as Banda started developing health complications that included sores all over the body, recurrent fever and bouts of diarrhea. His pastor insisted that the ailments would vanish if he continued praying hard which Banda did but instead his condition worsened.
Banda pose for a photograph in front of his house
Banda’s condition became unbearable and was temporarily admitted at Kango’ma Health Center before being referred to the Light House in the City where he resumed taking ARVs. Speaking in an interview, Banda admitted that his health was improving and has since dropped membership at his church and joined another one because he could no longer satisfy conditions at the church.
Banda has now been reintegrated at the Tiyanjane Support Group and his testimony sends serous warnings about how community members especially those on ARV should treat HIV medication. Banda is now actively involved sensitizing people about the dangers of abandoning medication.
ADRA Malawi through the Action for Social Change Program is strengthening 3 support groups in Traditional Authority Tsabango to advocate for better services and the reduction of stigma and discrimination on matters of HIV/AIDS.  The increased number of support groups and membership has created an enabling environment for people to openly declare their HIV/AIDS status and community acceptance. The Action for Social Change Program is being supported by Denmark to bring about individual and society change in Lilongwe, Machinga, Mzimba and Mulanje.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Mgumera community constructs house for the aged

 By Redson Damalekani
In what appears to be a rare activity, the Mgumera community in Mulanje is constructing a house for an old man, who has been abandoned by his relatives. Moffat Maganga, 99 fell out of grace from his relatives after they suspected him with superstitious acts and witchcraft and has been discarded by the wider community for 11 years. His wife and children died several years ago.
 The degree of misery and poverty as Moffat advances in age triggered community attention, prompting the Mgumera REFLECT circle to table the matter and discuss a lasting solution.  The circle resolved that a house be constructed for Moffat Maganga, whose health status declined due to lack food and other basic necessities and his house was on the verge of collapsing.
The community hatched a plan to mould bricks three months ago and construction of the superstructure has started.  A community member who declined to be named said this was a landmark activity in the village and has not been witnessed for more than 30 years.
Mgumera REFLECT Circle in session
part of Moffat's dilapidated house
A house for Moffat under construction
It is common practice that when people are aged, they are suspected of being involved in witchcraft and many have been abandoned to die while in isolation. However, the Mgumera REFLECT Circle is trying to prove this notion wrong by extending love to the vulnerable and marginalized members of the community including the aged.
The construction of the house brought smiles back on Moffat face as he feels being part of the community. Apart from the house, the circle would support him with food and other basic items.
ADRA Malawi, with support from Denmark has facilitated formation and is empowering seven RELFLECT Circles in Mulanje District.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Snake falls from tree while pupils are learning

By Elias Banda
Hell broke loose when a  snake fell from the tree while pupils were learning at Khwalala Primary School in Mulanje District, causing fear and panic among the learners. Calm and order were restored when the snake was killed though  lessons failed to continue.
Confirming the incident, Group Village Head Khwalala said the snake called Namasamba in local language fell during  a class session but no casualties were reported.
Pupils at the school especially those of lower classes learn on open grounds and under the trees due to shortage of school blocks. School Head Teacher Dickens Hapala said an interview that his school has 20 classes but with only 8 classrooms, forcing 12 classes to learn on open grounds. He said the situation is aggravated during rainy season when it becomes difficult to learn from outside and absenteeisms are considerably high when the ground is wet. Hapala said some pupils were accommodated in the near by church building under desperate circumstances.
Mary Gedion, member of the school committee said children are forced to sit on the dusty ground because the school does not have enough desks, making it difficult for learners to write.
Last year,  the school committee mobilized the community to mold 150, 000 bricks in an attempt to attract government attention but all efforts proved futile after three years elapsed without any response.
ADRA Malawi through the Action for Social Program established the Radio Listeners Club in the area as a platform where the community would discuss issues that affect them. The program would be aired on the public broadcasting station and hopes were higher that they would be assisted through the wider audience.  And during their first radio program, the community recorded the issue on shortage of school blocks and engaged a duty bearer from the Ministry of Gender and Community Development. The community is optimist that after the radio program, school blocks would be built at Khwalala.
The Action for Social Change is supported by Denmark to bring about society and individual change in Mulanje, Machinga, Lilongwe and Mzimba Districts.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Coalition against early marriages formed in Machinga

By Lino Limbithu and Elias Banda

Cases of early marriages have not spared Kawinga village communities in Machinga District where younger girls at ages between 13 and 15 enter into marriages after dropping from school. A training in advocacy organized by ADRA Malawi through the Action for Social Change Program involving community groups triggered discussions into the matter and community members sought a lasting solution. And subsequently, a task force was formed to take the matter further and the Mgwilizano coalition against early marriages was formed after consultations with chiefs and the Traditional Authority Kawinga.
During a meeting that was attended by interested groups including teachers,  police victim support units and community members, a consensus was reached giving the Mgwilizano coalition the mandate to enforce by-laws against early marriages. The laws were as follows:
1.    Marriage involving a young girl or boy should be dissolved immediately and matter to be referred to traditional counselors.
2.    Parents permitting their children to enter into marriages at unacceptable age would pay a penalty of K5000.00 (about $14) each.
3.    Any marriage arrangement to be approved by the village head.
4.    Any person found marrying a younger girl would pay K10, 000 (about $28) and the marriages would be dissolved immediately.
5.    A teacher found impregnating or marrying a school girl would pay K50, 000 (about $140)
The Mgwilizano coalition was also given responsibility to facilitate community sensitization on the child care, protection and justice Act passed by Parliament in 2010. The Act, which outlines responsibilities and roles of parents on how to raise their children in their respective homes, addresses issues of child abduction, trafficking, harmful cultural practices, and it recognizes principles that are in the best interest of children.

Nevertheless section 22 subsection 7 of the Malawi constitution allows persons between the age of fifteen and eighteen years to get married as long as they obtain consent from their parents and guardian and human rights activists have argued that this section of the constitution is a loophole for rampart early marriages in Malawi and are advocating  for the amendment of the section.

Meanwhile, through the Mgwilizano Coalition, three girls aged between 13 and 15 who have been reclaimed from marriages are now reintegrated at Nanyumbu Primary School.
The Action for Social Change Program is being supported by Denmark to bring about individual and society change in Machinag, Mulanje, Mzuzu and Lilongwe.

Friday, July 12, 2013

World Population Day;Malawi challenges and ADRA response

By Elias Banda
11 July was World Population Day with the year's theme focusing on adolescent pregnancy. In Malawi the population officially stands at 13 million according to the 2008 Population and Housing Census. The 2008 census puts the growth rate at 2.8 percent per year and that 19 percent of the total population were youths aged between 15 and 24, a population highly considered  to be sexually active.
Today, there are fears that youths have not been adequately reached with messages on a national scale or they have little or no access to contraceptives.  Reproductive health commentators in the local media have described the fast growing population in Malawi as a time bomb, which when it explodes will cast catastrophic effects. Population growth has been attributed to early pregnancies among the adolescents and currently it is estimated that 152 children are born per every 1000 live births.
Emily Kamwendo, a Reproductive Health Expert was quoted in the media as saying that Malawi has one of the highest early marriage or child marriages prevalence rates in the world. On average, one out of two girls will be married by their 18th birthday. In 2010, half of the women aged between 20 and 24 years were married before age 18.  If this trend is anything to go by, it means that 631 000 of the young girls born between 2005 -2010 will be married before age 18 by 2030.
Youths pose for photograph after family planning meeting.

Poverty and lack of education among the adolescents are among the leading causes of early pregnancies and early marriages. According to the Malawi Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) of 2010, young women with no education were eleven times more likely to have started child bearing by the age of 19 than those with secondary school or higher education.
The population boom in Malawi is creating a huge strain on natural resources and the national budget is overstretched to provide and sustain social services. There is now increasing pressure on the government to act on the issue immediately.
Recently, the Malawi government unveiled the four National Population Policy priority areas such as; advocacy, information, education and communication and behavior change; coordination of population programs and capacity building; research, data   collection , analysis and dissemination  and mainstreaming of population and related issues in development planning.
ADRA Malawi through the Family Planning Community Advocacy project is complementing government’s efforts by raising awareness on family planning methods and is linking communities to service providers in Mulanje, Machinga, Lilongwe and Mzuzu.
ADRA Malawi is currently mobilizing and is supporting over 280 community family planning volunteers targeting over 240 village communities to increase accessibility and usage of modern family planning methods. The project is also engaging family planning service providers at district and community level to advocate for youth friendly services in health centers.


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Makwasa community gets transport boost

By Stanley Mpasa and Elias Banda
ADRA Malawi has donated three ambulance bicycles to village communities in Makwasa in Thyolo district,   to ease transport challenges especially when taking patients to Malamulo Hospital. Community members earlier informed ADRA Malawi about the prevailing transport predicaments which mainly affected pregnant women in labor who found it difficult to travel through difficult terrain to get to Malamulo Hospital.
The three ambulance bicycles, with funds from ADRA International were donated through the TOT Project to Nkusa, Mangwalala and Thomasi village communities at a hand over ceremony held at Malamulo Secondary School.
S. Mpasa, (3rd  from left), shakes hands with GVH Nkusa  during the handover ceremony.
Speaking on behalf of the community, Group Village Head Nkusa thanked ADRA Malawi for the timely donation and  that the facilities would go a long way helping to transport chronically ill patients to the hospital on time.  
According to Stanley Mpasa, TOT Project Manager, the donation was part of ADRA Malawi effort to increase community access to health facilities in order to improve peoples’ lives.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Farmers association formed in Mulanje

By Elias Banda and Kapalepale Phiri.
An association embracing farmer interest groups in Traditional Authority Juma in Mulanje district has been formed with a mandate to represent farmer’s interests at district and national levels.
The association has an official name; Tagwirizina Small Holder Farmers Association (TASHFA) after its constitution was reviewed and adopted on June 14, 2013 at Namphungo.
The elected executuive committee
During the meeting, a fifteen member executive committee was elected and the elections were witnessed by Mulanje District Agribusiness Officer, Grant Tweya and agriculture extension officers from Kamwendo Extension Planning Area. Speaking during the function Mr Tweya said he was convinced that the association had followed necessary procedures and that he would help to facilitate further registration processes. He thanked ADRA Malawi through the Action for Social Change Program for facilitating the process.
According to the constitution, the main objective of the association is to find markets for seeds,  negotiate better prices and lobby for loans for farmers among other tasks that would lead to improved quality of life for farmers.

The constitution also indicates that it would mainly promote pigeon pea, sunflower, sorghum, soy beans, tomatoes and cotton.
Farmers dispalying their produce at Khwalala
A member of Mwawihe interest group who declined to be named said apart from finding lucrative markets for agriculture produce, the association would also defuse efforts of middle men who exploit farmers by imposing lower prices.
The association has embraced 8 interests groups with jurisdiction of 60 villages in Traditional Authority Juma with a total membership of 1, 129 members.  Meanwhile, female membership is 764.
The Action for Social Change Program is being support by Denmark to bring about individual and society change in Mulanje, Machinga, Mzuzu and Lilongwe districts. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Water shortage causes high divorce rates- GVH Ngongondo

By Elias Banda
Group Village Head Ngogondo of Machinga has bemoaned   the increase of divorce cases in her area due to water shortage. The GVH said there was a strong link between water scarcity and fragile marriages because when  women spend more time fetching water, there was growing suspicion among men that their wives were cheating on them and based on the balance of probabilities, men always found grounds for divorce.
GVH Ngongondo said her indaba (village court) was flooded with divorce cases that were usually blended with hostility and suspicion among couples. The GVH said the number of divorced women was on the increase, hampering development efforts as single women were struggling to cope with prevailing economic challenges.

In extreme situations, people drink from rivers
A woman stressing a point during radio recording

Lukia John from Kamtetela Village said she was beaten twice by her husband on suspicion that she cheated on her husband when she spent 8 hours looking for safe water.  The matter was resolved after it was referred to the GVH indaba.
GVH Ngongondo said her area has 35 villages but with only two boreholes, forcing women to travel long distances looking for water. The few functional boreholes were characterized by long queues with women fighting for spaces.  In extreme situations women were forced to draw from open and unprotected wells where water was shared with animals and sometimes they found dead animals in the water.
Women learning how to be self reliant
Pishen Nampesya said it was a shame that nearly 50 years after Malawi got independence, people  in his area where still drinking in rivers and open wells.
But recently, ADRA Malawi facilitated recording of radio program where people used the platform to advocate for the provision of water by the government. During the community dialogue session that was recorded, community members engaged the duty bearer from the Department of Water Development to respond to the water challenge.
The Water Development Officer in the area, Bhahati Ngwiri pledged to report the mater to higher authorities for the provision of water facilities. However, chiefs asked for his contact number and his house for constant communication in case he failed to honor the pledge.
The recorded materials would be aired for the ADRA Malawi sponsored Zatonse Radio Program on the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC).  Zatonse Radio Program is supported by Denmark through the Action for Social Change Program to amplify community advocacy voices to influence positive opinion from duty bearers and service providers at national level.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

ADRA Malawi staff donate for Peke

By Stanley Mpasa
On Friday, October 19, 2012 a story was posted about Peke Mafuli of Phalombe District, a mother of three children, a girl and twin brothers who was abandoned by her husband due to her HIV status. Her relatives were helpless and she did not have enough energy to provide food for her children. Things started changing when a counselor trained by ADRA Malawi visited her and referred her to the clinic for medication. Since then, she has been on ARV treatment.
The story of Peke was shared by (Trainer of Trainers) TOT Manager, Stanley Mpasa during morning worship and he appealed for support. Since then, ADRA Malawi staff started mobilizing items including food, clothes and kitchen utensils.
Peke, center posing for a photograph with some of the donated items. Right to her is Friday Mwanakhu, the TOT counselor. 
On May 22, 2013, ADRA Malawi staff sent a representative to present items to Peke. Speaking after receiving the items, Peke thanked ADRA Malawi for the donation and for the psychosocial support that she said had changed her life.
The TOT counselors visit Peke on weekly rotational basis offering psychosocial support.
The TOT project is being supported by Sweden to bring about individual and society positive change in the wake of HIV/AIDS.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Salima DC, chiefs impressed with Tsogolo Labwino Project

Salima District Commissioner Charles Kalemba  was impressed with ADRA Malawi Tsogolo Labwino project activities during  a tour of projects in the district. The visit inspired chiefs and project beneficiaries in Traditional Kambwiri in the district.
The DC visited water facilities and village banking groups among other project activities supported by ADRA Australia. In his speech, Mr kalemba called on other organizations to emulate ADRA Malawi for its commitment to help the
One of the facilities visited.
Speaking earlier, Traditional Authority Kambwiri commended ADRA Malawi for transforming lives in his area. He however bemoaned the increased number of non -governmental organizations that existed only on paper. He said that out of 21 registered organizations, only 10 were helping people in his area including ADRA Malawi.
Commenting on the matter, the DC said his office would soon embark on the screening exercise to assess the impact of organizations in the district.
Speaking during the function, Tsogolo Labwino Project Manager Francis Zande thanked the DC for his visit. He also  thanked the community members for supporting project activities and called on chiefs to continue advocating for development activities in their villages.
Recently, ADRA Malawi handed over 4 boreholes to the community which would provide safe and portable water to over 1, 500 people. In April this year, 65 adult learners graduated from adult classes and currently, the project has over 250 adult learners attending classes.  Tsogolo Labwino Project is being supported by Australia to bring about individual and society change in Salima District.