Another trip, another development.

Maybe I forgot this one, and maybe others have superseded it, but I’ll throw it in the pot!!

Every trip is an up and down affair. We have successes and failures every day, but we only tend to think of the successes and gain energy from them. When I say failures they are in fact learning experiences for the whole crew. We have a motto, just don’t make the same mistake twice!!

Empowering, inspiring, educating and challenging, poor, rural people, with no history of a day’s work, is in itself challenging. They have to move up from low first gear into overdrive. It rarely happens in a day or a month or a year, buy by being there and sticking with them, particularly the women, positive movement is made. The piece includes a story of very poor women who have made giant leaps in 2011 and who are not for turning. We are really blown away by this success story.

Bringing clean water to villages enables us to meet and engage with villagers. Last year SJOG were selected to deliver a no input, self help, enterprise scheme, in the Northern Region of Malawi, with a population of about one and a half million. Spread over about half the size of Ireland. The programme will be delivered nationally by five organisations and one of these is SJOG. For all intents and purposes it’s a Credit Union, locally driven and managed, without Bankers, Bureaucrats or Ballyhoo. Twenty or so poor women come together, start saving small amounts; begin lending to each other from the pool at a 20% interest rate. The success has been phenomenal in twelve months doing small business. Later 10 such groups form a cluster to look at the needs of their areas, with representatives meeting once a month. We are invited to help at this level because of our expertise in the areas clean water, preschools, adult education and conservation farming. We are delighted to be involved with such a potentially powerful force for the future of Malawi. They make proposals to us and after long discussions we agree strategies on all three areas. We meet and thrash out a strategy for large local inputs so that they have ownership.

Adult education is very new in Malawi and we have seen its success in the groups we work with. We have a broad course covering woman’s empowerment, nutrition, health, literacy, numeracy. To this end we are working with the DEM’s (District Education Managers) to develop a programme, as they have just taken over this portfolio from Social Welfare. While we are working with women we also work with lead farmers to develop and mainstream a approach to conservation agriculture. At the moment, Benidicto and Dave are just about to head off to Ndola in Zambia at the invitation of our partners, Lifeline in Zambia, to study their very successful methods. Alfred and Robert will follow with a view to teaching and spreading the Gospel to about 150 villages we have planned for next year. Support for this approach is coming from the Danish and Australian Governments.

As we say to all our volunteers: Malawian people need their dignity restored, they certainly need a little help but they don’t need the drive by type help that has failed here for forty years. In our new areas, we, as far as is possible avoid districts that have become dependant on free external inputs, and go into the bush, looking for those who have no idea about begging.

Like all projects in Malawi, this will not be easy, but these women’s groups have made a great start just 12 months, and when we support them, on what they need, it will be upwards and onwards. We are working with one cluster so far, 20 women, where about 2500 villagers will be impacted. The area has 34 pumps, (all installed by reputable organisations) but only one worked until we recently replaced three non functioning pumps. The community have dug two new wells as part of their action plan for water.

When we have solved their major problem, that of clean water, a first prayer of every rural woman, they present us with other needs and challenges, like irrigation, seeds, fertilizer, food security and education. So if we are asked what we do now, we say that we do our best to meet needs. We try to Inspire, Educate and Challenge, working with communities who have already made a start themselves, but most of all we don’t do handouts.

Biggest news of this trip is a new Memorandum of Understanding with our most recent partner Lifeline in Zambia. Chris, one of the leading lights in LIZ, has already supervised the installation of a large number of pumps in Katete, Zambia, last year. He appreciated the simplicity and repairability of the pump, its ease of installation, its longevity and low cost. After last week’s meeting we are planning 1000 new pumps in Ndola. Initially we will make the pumps in Mzuzu and then look at a new factory in Zambia. Zambia has a different water need from Malawi, wells are up to 20 metres deep and very large numbers using each. If you like numbers, the next four years should see up to half a million Zambians accessing clean, safe drinking water from one of our pumps. What a frightening thought?

The Birthing Centre has now developed a grander future with the news that the Ministry has approved staffing for a Health Clinic there as well. Lilian and the traditional Authority made the case for a resident nurse and assistant, and got the go ahead.

The community have come to us to assist with cement and the roof, while they will supply the site for the house needed and the extension for the clinic. They will also contribute, bricks, sand, timber and all the labour. They will then take over management of the facility with Lilian, the birth attendant playing a leading role. By now, she has a new metal roof on her house, to keep the rain out!!

Very Latest: We had to buy a new (well, second hand) jeep. The Army tank is just about at an end and guzzling scarce fuel.

New Jeep to replace the old Army guzzler which is on the way out

A wee final note, Harisen’s mum was very ill. They drove to Zomba, (10 hours) to collect her. Charity has been taking good care of her for a week. Now she’s back walking and feeling better. So much so that she’s getting her hair done today.


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