Nkhafi bridge: A CHE first in Madisi, Malawi

NKHAFI, MADISI, 10th MAY, 2014:

This year, Nkafi village head celebrates 52 years. He celebrates more than his birthday following a fortnight that has seen the completion of the first CHE seed project. His leadership efforts and training under CHE earlier this year enabled his village to come together and for the first time in many years build a ‘bridge’ across a 30m crossing of the river where one has traditionally span the river since before he was a boy. The bridge connects 5 sister villages that form the environs of Madisi with 10 others in the hinterland across the perennial river whose wrath is felt throughout summer although the off-peak season has little respite for the villagers.

Nkhafi Bridge

Nkhafi Bridge

Mercy with men from Nkhafi at the bridge

Mercy with men from Nkhafi at the bridge

Speaking at the completion of the project, the group village headman, Masamani, observed that the bridge is a vital link between the two communities on each side of the river. These communities live in a symbiotic co-existence and the bridge comes as a much needed infrastructure for the whole community. While Madisi business center is the hub of economic activity, the main health center in the 5km radius is across the river and it primarily serves the maternal and child welfare of the whole community. The bridge offers quick access as the established roads sometimes mean the difference especially when matters relate to pregnancy are at stake.

What makes the bridge unique is the fact that the CHE model has been widely and actively embraced by both the community and the traditional leadership. This follows a TOT that identifies 16 individuals from in and around Madisi, 4 of which are traditional leaders. These trained as community health evangelists and the bridge project is the first-fruits of the initiative. On the last day of the project, a total of 42 women and 40 men worked in a participatory framework that defied the food-for-work concept. Sadly, the food-for-work concept disenfranchised many a community and left dependency syndromes that will take long to cure. In short, they have eroded community will power in the developmental discourse, CHE represents a rebirth in this discourse. To further show that there is now a shift in the way the community views developmental work, each household supplied a 90kg polythene bag over and above their talents, skills and labour. The timber (logs) used to span the other part of the river were obtained through controlled cutting down of trees in the communal grave yard, this demonstrates the degree of unity and leadership all traits most pointed out had not been possible before CHE.

Men of Nkhafi carrying the log to the bridge

Men of Nkhafi carrying the log to the bridge

One prominent woman who spoke on behalf of the group noted that CHE instilled a sense of agency in the whole community and this is the motivation that led to the adoption of the bridge building as the first seed project. The women carried sand in buckets which the man bagged in 90 kg bag and used these to dam part of the channel before using logs to span across the remaining 3m of the river. The community demonstrated they have what it takes to harness local resources, both material and human towards achieving a common community goal.

 

Sand in buckets

Sand in buckets

A man sewing a sand bag

A man sewing a sand bag

 

Through the leadership and brainstorming led by the writer, the community now looks at their previous challenge through new developmental lenses. It was agreed that responsible people would find out what it would take to turn the small weir at this part of the river into an aquaculture project. The community welcomed the idea and run with it as they assigned roles and responsibilities towards realizing yet another seed project born out of the impediment presented by crossing the almost meter deep channel at the height of summer. One of the men said that the building of the fish pond on this particular stretch of the river would ensure that the wooden structure of the bridge that has between 2-3years will last longer if not indefinite as the construction of aquaculture ponds will redefine the environment.

Log for the bridge

Log for the bridge

Men working at the bridge

Men working at the bridge

 

The waters of Nkhafi river

The waters of Nkhafi river

 

It was an enthusiastic village head who in jubilation saw opportunity born out of the efforts of CHE as he said his life and that of his community will never be the same all thanks to CHE. Before this bridge the villagers travelled long distances to access bridges that would add more that 10km to the short distance of not more than 4km, this affected not only business and health but at times ate at the very core of Ubuntu as people helplessly stayed divided by a flooded river most summer days. Where the communities had seen challenges posed by a river not crossable, it is now part of history as the community explores economic opportunities where they have for the greater part of his lifetime seen threat!

 

Photos courtesy of TheHDi

 

By Mercy Chikhosi Nyirongo

 

Nkhafi women initiate adult literacy under CHE banner

According to World Bank adult literacy is when the population that is above 15 years of age can understand basic numeracy and literacy.The adult literacy program is not new in the Malawi context. Due to lack of resources and poor access there are still gaps on the ground. Presently, illiteracy rates in Malawi are reportedly around as high as 25% in urban areas although this figure may admittedly be higher in the rural areas due to lack of access. While the government has attempted to close the gaps, the efforts are slow in other places and the women of Nkhafi now redefine the landscape in this area.

Identifying their need to read and write, the women of Nkhafi initiated a community owned adult literacy program. These self aware women take the CHE framework to a new level, they identified two younger women who will spearhead the basic literacy and numeracy drive. The women leadership approached the Catholic Church who agreed to offer them classroom space.

“We are going to buy our own books and pens. We will make blackboard out of charcoal. Each woman will contribute towards an incentive package for our two teachers. We are asking you (CHE) for Standard 1 and 2 text books to be used by our teachers,” said Magret Banda. Mrs Banda is keen to become literate and demonstrates that age will not inhibit her from getting the skills she considers essential towards the development of the women in Malawi.

Out of the 42 who attended the session only two could read and write. “Most of us women can not read or write. I failed in business and could not follow antenatal follow-up dates when I was pregnant because I could not read what was written on my health passport book. Enough is enough! I want to read,” added Mrs Nikolasi.

For the women of Nkhafi community Friday, the 16th May marks a new beginning with the kick-start of their adult literacy initiative. Currently,  classes will be conducted twice weekly, Mondays and Fridays from 2 – 4pm.

Mercy and the women of Nkhafi discussing on adult literacy

Mercy and the women of Nkhafi discussing on adult literacy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Women of Nkhafi community

Women of Nkhafi community

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Discussion on adult literacy underway

Discussion on adult literacy underway

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The women believe that reading and writing are fundamental life skills that can bring change to their lives.

As the journey continues!!!

Photos courtesy of TheHDi.

By Mercy Chikhosi Nyirongo

believes reading is one of the fundamental life skills that can bring change to a child. – See more at: http://www.faceofmalawi.com/2012/10/79-of-malawis-children-illiterate/#sthash.jqN2qahu.dpuf
believes reading is one of the fundamental life skills that can bring change to a child. – See more at: http://www.faceofmalawi.com/2012/10/79-of-malawis-children-illiterate/#sthash.jqN2qahu.dpuf

CHE and ZOE: A holistic approach to Madisi community development.

For sustainable community development to take place, there must be interaction and coordination among all of the factors and agents that intervene and act in a locality. This means a combination of efforts is required, which takes into account the interests, values, ways of thinking, experiences and skills of all agents. It is against this background that Community Health Evangelism (CHE) and ZOE orphan empowerment which are both development tools that benefit the communities and change people’s lives will be collaborating for Madisi community development in Dowa district, Malawi.

CHE and ZOE conducted a sensitization and awareness campaign to ensure widespread awareness among all stakeholders on the prevailing Madisi community challenges and on the importance of participatory and interactive intervention.

Madisi Community leaders during the awareness meeting

Madisi Community leaders during the awareness meeting

Part of the gathering during the meeting

Part of the gathering during the meeting

Part of the gathering during the meeting

Part of the gathering during the meeting

Community Health Evangelism (CHE) is the best practices model that  integrates evangelism and discipleship with community based development. It promotes ownership by making sure that people are taking responsibility for their own health and well being. CHE will provide a critical and essential link with health systems and is a powerful force for promoting healthy behaviors in the resource-constrained setting.

“We consider ourselves blessed that these two powerful programs are in our community. We are not the same. We have already seen how our children have been transformed through ZOE, now its CHE whereby everybody is involved. We can not ask for more. Thanks for coming to walk along side us on this path to development” explained group village headman Khosi.

Mercy, Rachel Kalima and Chimwemwe Mhango discussing during the meeting

Mercy, Rachel Kalima and Chimwemwe Mhango discussing during the meeting

ZOE children performing during the meeting

ZOE children performing during the meeting

The Madisi community welcomed the idea of having community development grounded on participation and both traditional leadership and people of Madisi look forward to a vibrant wholly owned and integrated approach as the program unfolds.

Mercy and part of  influential leaders of Madisi

Mercy and part of influential leaders of Madisi

The community members passing developmental  resolutions

The community members passing developmental resolutions

Select1

After the meeting, the members identified 10 members who are to attend the Trainer of Trainers 1 from 12th – 16th March, 2014.

Community members chosen for TOT1

Community members chosen for TOT1

 

HSA

One of the Health surveillance Assistants during the meeting

The coming together of the Madisi community during this landmark event marked a milestone in the meaning of developmental work and participatory community development. The traditional leadership and the people of Madisi showed their appreciation of both CHE and ZOE synergies as developmental partners and demonstrated their valued appreciation of the participatory approach that is providing an enabling environment for them as active stakeholders in the process as it increases ownership and fosters sustainability. The general and shared view was one of consensus and shared vision by the majority of the event participants, that is the youth, women, community members, traditional leadership and other agents working directly with the community who represented the government departments they work with. From this meeting it was clear the foundation was set and what now remains is the process towards the realization of the shared and mutual goal – community development for the people, with the people, by the people for the people.

By Mercy Chikhosi Nyirongo

ZOE empowering girls to uplift communities in Madisi, Malawi.

Agricultural development has been adopted as a strategy to achieve poverty reduction, the first of the millennium development goals (MDG). Gender inequalities continue to contribute towards the decline of agriculture in most parts of Malawi. Girls should be active participants in agricultural development to enhance their own capacities and overcome their challenges. In Madisi, where society sustain rigid male supremacy, girl’s work and economic contributions tend to be viewed as nonessential. However, with an increase in female child headed households who derive their livelihood from agriculture, challenges the notion that agricultural production is a male occupation. To address these issues, ZOE orphan empowerment program in Madisi, Malawi is empowering girls to access and control over factors of agricultural production to which they are the major stakeholder.

Fanny Botomani, 16 years old at her one hectare maize garden

Fanny Botomani, 16 years old at her one hectare maize garden

Theresa Botomani, a farmer at 16 years old

Theresa Botomani, a farmer at 16 years old

 

“The boys in our working group used to intimidate me that I can not make it, that I can not farm. Today, I am happy that I have made it and my garden looks much better than the boys’. I would like to encourage my fellow girls that everything is possible. Before I joined ZOE I used to beg to eat, but that will not be the case this year. I am anticipating bumper harvest” explained Theresa Botomani.

If girls have the same access to resources as boys, they could increase farm yields.  When girls are empowered economically and socially − they become leaders and agents of change for economic growth, social progress and sustainable development.

Marita John, 17 years old, applying fertilizer to her maize garden

Marita John, 17 years old, applying fertilizer to her maize garden

 

Chisomo Tembo 13 years old , smiling as she applies fertilizer to her maize garden

Chisomo Tembo 13 years old , smiling as she applies fertilizer to her maize garden

 

Titha Mayeso, 15 years old

Titha Mayeso, 15 years old

 

“I used to farm without fertilizer, but not anymore. Through ZOE, I managed to get fertilizer, my maize is strong and green as you can see it. I will have a bumper harvest this year. I will not beg any more, myself and my siblings will now manage 3 meals a day. Thank you ZOE” Titha said.

These girls are women of tomorrow. Women are central to the development of rural areas and to national economies. Empowering girls is empowering women. When women are empowered can claim their rights, have access to leadership, opportunities and choices, economies grow, food security is enhanced and prospects are improved for current and future generations.

By Mercy Chikhosi Nyirongo

ZOE: Working to end extreme poverty and hunger among orphans and vulnerable children

In line with Millennium Development Goal (MDG) number 1 which promotes eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, ZOE is investing in agriculture among orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) in Madisi, Dowa district, Malawi. ZOE provides assistance to develop agriculture, improve food security and increase the income of the OVCs in Madisi.

By empowering OVCs like Chimwemwe Chizula, 19 years old, who takes care of his two sisters 8 and 5,  ZOE is making sure its efforts reach the entire household to improve long term food security and help break the cycle of hunger. Chimwemwe lost his father when he was 15 years old, his mother got married again to a man who did not want to take care of the children. This left Chimwemwe with no choice but to head the household. He dropped out of school, working in other people’s maize fields and tobacco plantations to make ends meet. With the coming of ZOE, he has leased  2 hectares of land to plant maize, which is the staple food of Malawi.

Chimwemwe and his two sisters at their maize field

Chimwemwe and his two sisters at their maize field

“This is a great day in my life,  I have land to farm. I will be able to feed myself and my sisters and keep some for sale. I mean, through my working group, ZOE is leading me to a life of self-reliance and enable me to meet my own basic needs and build better futures for my sisters” explained Chimwemwe

Chimwemwe at his 2 hectare land, planting maize

Chimwemwe at his 2 hectare land, planting maize

 

The two sisters helping Chimwemwe in planting

The two sisters helping Chimwemwe in planting

 

Mercy planting with Chimwemwe

Mercy planting with Chimwemwe

 

 

 

Some of the self reliant actions ZOE takes include:

1. Income Generating Activities- This enables the OVCs to increase their incomes, so that they can purchase the food they need to survive during periods of food shortage.

2. Food banks – As it is in other countries where ZOE operates, each group in Madisi will have a food bank (it is their first farming season) to which the OVCs will contribute maize, both those grown on the communal land as well as a percentage from their own household plots. Empowering the OVCS to create, stock and manage their own food banks at the group level helps stabilize food security at household level.

Food banks enable OVCs to not only increase crop yield, but also to diversify crops, which is critical to ensuring food security at household level. Members of a working group give back a certain percentage of their crop to the food bank as repayment for their agricultural inputs. The success of the food banks ensures that members of a working group have access to staple foods year-round, and particularly during the dry season, as well as during emergencies such food crisis, floods or droughts.

3. Agricultural trainings – ZOE works with government agriculture extension aids department in Madisi to train the OVCs to grow an increased variety of organic crops.

Therefore, ZOE also contribute to building confidence and shifting OVCs’ mind-set from one of dependency on outside help to one of self-reliance. ZOE children often remark that they feel more empowered to solve their own problems and make a difference in their villages. This change in mind-set manifests itself in an increased capacity to deal effectively with crises when they occur.

ZOE, empowering OVCs to end their own hunger!!!!!!

By Mercy Chikhosi Nyirongo

Return Healthier from a Vacation

Today, I will share an article from my friend Cole Millen http://colemill.blogspot.com/, an avid Traveler and foodie. Cole gives tips on maintaining a nutritious diet and health meals during vacations. Travel and stay health!

Cole writes:

Vacation can tempt the most disciplined person into eating things “they shouldn’t,” but by following a few tips, one can stay prepared and ready to tackle those sweet and fattening temptations. Stay ahead of the curve to ensure success.

 

Keep healthy snacks and bottled water on hand at all times. Far too often, people are tempted by scrumptious little treats, especially in places that are frequented by many tourists because the locals know they’ll sell well. If fresh snacks are not available, opt to carry dried fruit that will stay fresh. Before leaving for a trip, stock up on dried fruit, nuts and other snacks that will help to keep full and energetic. Place them in baggies and allot so many for each day to ensure success.

If you go out to buy food, buy them in small amounts. Even if a sweet tooth cannot be avoided. For instance, choose a small ice cream cone rather than a huge sundae. This will satiate a sweet tooth without going overboard. Skip going to a buffet and opt for healthier places, such as a restaurant that serves chicken and fish. Avoid oily and battered foods, simple carbohydrates and other foods that will contribute to rapid weight gain. Choose brown rice in place of rice. Choose sweet potatoes over white potatoes. Simply changing up an unhealthy food for a healthier one can reduce one’s intake by hundreds of calories. Add this up over a period of a week or two and the difference can be as much as a saved five to ten pounds of potential weight gain.

Eat often. Many times while on vacation people can get to sight-seeing and have too many activities crammed into the day. By the time it’s realized, everyone is starving and will seek out salty, oily and fatty foods. Take the time to eat. Plan ahead. Look up healthy choices within the vicinity of the place being visited that day. Try out fresh, local foods, such as fish caught by the seaside or special local fruit and vegetables.

Choosing a hotel with healthy eating alternatives is also beneficial. Further, hotels that offer amenities, such as a private kitchen make it easier to eat healthy. Another option is taking a small crockpot while on vacation. During the day, eat healthy snacks and other healthy options and while away from the hotel room, the crockpot can cook a mixture of lean meat, vegetables and other healthy foods to eat for dinner. Hotels that offer continental breakfasts have several healthy foods, such as oatmeal and fruit. Determining different aspects of your hotel and destinations area can be difficult. On a recent trip south I found a site that listed travel reviews for hotels in Miami ranging from the hotel itself, to restaurants in the area, even things to do. This made it easier than ever to ensure that I maintained my beach body while laying in the sun.

The idea of vacation is to see something new and come back feeling rejuvenated and renewed. Choosing to stay healthy on vacation is extremely rewarding for the trip and when one returns. Coming back from a vacation with additional weight gain places a strain on physical and emotional energy levels. Come back rested and healthier”.

 

ZOE orphan Empowerment reduces the number of juvenile offenders in Madisi

On 4th September, 2013  ZOE Orphan Empowerment program  hosted representatives from the office of Dowa DC, Social welfare, police, local chiefs and the healthcare department. They conducted a ZOE familiarization tour.

Mr John Washali - Social Welfare Officer for Dowa district arriving at ZOE office

Mr John Washali - Social Welfare Officer for Dowa district arriving at ZOE office

Mr Washali and Mr Kamanga being welcomed by Catholic University students

Mr Washali and Mr Kamanga being welcomed by Catholic University students

The team visited individual and group ZOE projects.

The visit team going into the field

The visit team going into the field

Washali admiring a table that is being done a ZOE child who is in carpentry training

Washali admiring a table that is being done a ZOE child who is in carpentry training

The team also visited Loyce Banda who owns a hair dressing salon

The team also visited Loyce Banda who owns a hair dressing salon

Grace Banda showing her tailoring skills to Mr Washali and Mr Kamanga

Grace Banda showing her tailoring skills to Mr Washali and Mr Kamanga

Kafa, a chairperson for Chimwemwe working group explaining their building project to the team

Kafa, a chairperson for Chimwemwe working group explaining their building project to the team

Chaiperson of Lonjezo working group explaining about their group project. They are moulding bricks to construct a kraal for pigs

Chaiperson of Lonjezo working group explaining about their group project. They are moulding bricks to construct a kraal for pigs

Giving his speech after the tour,  Constable Sungani Nalutepa, a child Protection officer from police explained  that 67% of the juvenile crimes in Madisi are caused either from single parents or from  guardians other than parents or were living alone at the time of  arrest. The only logical conclusion from this contrast is that  children/young persons from this group are more likely to commit  crime than those from two-parent homes. In other words among the  causes for the juvenile crime are poverty, broken homes and single  parent homes, homelessness and being an orphan.

“Police recognises that crime prevention is not just about protecting children who are about to fall into bad association but also includes providing the best possible care and socio-economic support as well as ZOE is doing,  to minimse children’s chances of resorting to crime. We used to have an average of 10 juvenile offenders per month, with the coming of ZOE, the number has reduced to an average of 3 junile offenders per month” said Nakutepa

Mr James Kamanga from the Child Labour department added that ZOE is also helping to reduce child labour in Madisi. These children used to be employed in tobacco farms because they are a source of cheap labour. With ZOE, they are empowered and no longer work for someone but for themselves.

The local chiefs also added that a lot of organizations have cheated them but not ZOE. “We are no longer settling theft issues involving orphans and vulnerable children in our communities as ZOE has absorbed them all and gave them something to do” said group village Headman Masamani.

The team that visited ZOE orphan Empowerment program

The team that visited ZOE orphan Empowerment program

 

I have a vision, a day is coming when Madisi will be free of juvenile offenders. Thanks to ZOE Orphan Empowerment Program!!!!

 

By Mercy Chikhosi Nyirongo