The Plan

“Planning” for the Women of Sonda Planning for the Women of Sonda

If you look at the picture in the preceeding blog, it shows, Dr Niall Crumlish, Nurse Sharon Brady and retired educationalist Mary Coyne, who between them have enough literacy for the whole Mzuzu area, greeting ten of the poorest and least literate women in the world. Poles apart you might think, but literacy isn’t everything. Literacy is often for academics, using big words and particular and specific jargon to show their importance and power in order to exclude the rest of us mere mortals.

These women are special;
because everyone is,
because they are learning to become self sufficient business women,
because four weeks ago they were sitting around their primitive shacks wondering how they would survive with another failed crop
because their next meal may be someone’s charitable donation, delivered by a sparkling 4×4.

They may be poor and illiterate, but they want to work, they love to work. They already work harder than anyone I know: They are African women after all!!

This is a new project for wellsforzoe, in Sonda, about 7 km from Mzuzu city. The article by John Waters outlines the first visit there. The Chief or Group Village Headman (GVH) as he is called, is Matthews Lunghi, a strong 55 year old with a sly grin and great feeling for his people. He wants to know everything and is prepared to lead from the front, working harder than anyone else.
I saw his dambo (about 16 acres of swampland) which has a river and a permanent source of water, all in all a magic place for anyone who hasn’t grown up, having fun with water (as John Waters calls it). I explained to him what could be done, he nodded, made a little noise, huh, and looked at me (thinking, no one has managed to grow anything here, who is this white idiot).

I could start with 5 women, and men for the dam.
How many?
One if he’s strong enough, laugh.
Starting when?
Can you bring hoes?
Can you bring handles and we shook on it.

I arrived at 8.30 on Monday, late because of lack of transport, they were there from 8.00, I apologised. Ten women and four men all looking at me, all waiting for utterances.
The men knew it was a dam for them: I explained, demonstrated, did the motions and sunk the first hoe in the ground, “Let me try says Matthews” and now he can’t be stopped.

The women looked awkward, not good at slashing grass which seemed to me as if it had lain there since creation. The slashers were blunt, but we had a file in our arsenal. I sat down and started sharpening, a job I had done when I was 16 and cutting meadow with a finger mower. In those days the better you sharpened the longer it lasted.
I sharpened, they tested and I sharpened some more. They hacked and slashed an opening.

I told them we needed drains.
What are drains Sir?
We then agreed that if they called me Sir, I’d call them Madam, so we settled on John.

I put down the pegs and lines and drains we had.

I wondered about food, they had brought none, no fires no smoke, not even sugar cane. What was going on at 2.30 in the day.
They had come for a plan, no need for food. Obviously plans are the order of the day, if you haven’t got your strategic plan you are nobody. They expected planning to go on for a week. They expected an hour or two a day of planning.
It may never be implemented, because the one with the knowhow was away on another course or workshop learning to do more and better plans. Malawi is very strong on strategic planning but useless on implementation.

I said we’ll do the plan together.
Would ye like to go home?
Me too.
Tired, and starving.
The Plan had begun, without a word on paper. Well maybe a few drawings on the ground.
If you can read, you may need a plan.
If you can’t… Well

We’ll be back…


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