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Archives October 2019

File Photo: Louis Nkhata Speaking during a health governance project meeting
Justice and Peace Desk Lobbies for the Relocation of Office of DHSS to District Council Offices

By Obert Mkandawire  

On 29th October, 2019, the Justice and Peace Desk, through the OSISA funded health governance project, held a meeting at Club Marina in Karonga to influence the effective implementation of the decentralization process, policies and strategies within the health sector. 

The meeting was attended by Chitipa District Council led by the District Commissioner and Chitipa District Health Management Team, the Chairperson of Chitipa CSO Network and members from the Justice and Peace Desk of the Diocese of Karonga.

Firstly, the meeting advocated for the relocation of the Director of Health and Social Services (DHSS) from the district hospital to the Council offices.  The Justice and Peace Desk contends that the new arrangement will enable the DHSS to oversee all health facilities without bias.  The current set up is such that the DHSS is preoccupied with matters relating to the district hospital and health centres are affected in terms of distribution of resources. 

Participants agreed in the interim functions of the office of the DHSS should focus on the district level while still operating from Chitipa District Health Office because the current DHSS is working in acting capacity.

The meeting also discussed further devolution of Chitipa Local Health Sector Budget.  Currently, the budget is centralized at the District Health Office.  It was agreed during the meeting that some Health Centres such as Misuku, Wenya and Nthalire will have their own allocations for example fuel and cleaning materials from Other Recurrent Transactions beginning next ORT disbursement.

Finally, participants agreed on the separation of powers between the District Health Management Team and the Hospital Management Team (HMT).  The District Health Management Team will concentrate on affairs of all health facilities while the HMT will report to the former and will be making some financial decisions pertaining to the district hospital. The Hospital Management Team would be instituted and start its operations by December 31, 2019. 

However, Chitipa DHO team requested the Justice and Peace Desk to facilitate some bench marking especially where such an arrangement is in place such as Ntcheu and Mchinji.  The Justice and Peace Department says the new arrangement will ensure further decentralization of health decision making processes.

Fuel attendant practicing the use of fire extinguisher
Chitipa Filling Station Fuel Attendants Attain Fire Fighting Skills

By Stephano Nkhata

The Diocese of Karonga has trained fuel attendants at her Chitipa Filling Station on how to use handheld fire extinguishers to stop fire in case it occurs at the site. This day long training took place at the newly upgraded filling station in Chitipa.

In his explanation, the facilitator of the training Mr Joseph Malele, an employee of the Airport Development Limited (ADL) in Malawi said, fire usually starts with a spark – a wisp smoke that spreads with dramatic speed sending your office, factory, garage, school, hospital, warehouse, house and even your life up in smoke.

“Every day at home at work, fire kills and injures thousands of people, causing pain and suffering; destroys property causing financial loss leading to hardship and distress for many people,”

“Fire drives organizations and companies out of business, putting many out of work and yet most fires can be prevented,” said Malele

Diocesan filling station attendants have been trained on how to quickly put out fires in the event of such occurrence. Being at the retail filling station site, lives and property are at risk of catching fire one day. The training has provided insight into many important areas.

Some of the notable areas covered were; classification of fires, fire extinguishers colour code, combustion, principles of fire extinction, operation of fire extinguisher, fire protection and prevention and how different firefighting media extinguish fires. This included their advantages, disadvantages.

According to his explanation, it was clear that fire is caused by either of the following: carelessness, ignorance and accident. The team is now geared to work towards the prevention of fires at the site.

Pictures below show fuel attendants at the site during demonstrations which were conducted about 200 metres from the filling station.

Joseph Malele setting an old tyre on fire for demonstration on the day
Joseph Malele setting an old tyre on fire for demonstration on the day

Fuel attendant practicing the use of fire extinguisher
Fuel attendant practicing the use of fire extinguisher
Fire put out using handheld fire extinguisher during demonstrations
Fire put out using handheld fire extinguisher during demonstrations
Participants calculating sample gross margins during the training
Development Desk Emphasizes the Importance of Gross Margin Analysis in Farming Business

By Harold Mwale

One most important aspect that entrepreneurs overlook in starting and managing a farm business is that of gross margin. Thanks to Development Desk’s ACCES Plus (A+) Project which facilitated a training in gross margin analysis for farmers in Traditional Authority Mwalweni which is under Saint Francis De Sales Parish of Karonga Diocese in Rumphi district.

Gross Margin is the remaining income from an enterprise after the variable costs are deducted. This is an extremely important number for every new and small farm business to manage, as it impacts both the possibility of reaching breakeven (the product price needed to recover all variable costs incurred in production at a given output level and cost of input) and the amount of profit that a farmer can earn beyond breakeven. In other words, it directly impacts risk and return.

Gross margin affects breakeven and profit. As a simple example of how it affects, during the training a farmer was considered starting-up with MK300, 000 in fixed overhead. If this farm business gross margin as a percent of sales is 50% (which means fifty tambala out of each kwacha in sales is retained for the farmer to cover fixed costs), it would need to reach sales of MK600, 000 to cover its overhead.

If that same start-up were able to achieve a gross margin of 52% instead, breakeven would decrease by MK23,000, or approximately 4%. The farmer would then begin earning a before-tax profit of fifty-two tambala on each kwacha in sales after revenues reach MK577, 000 rather than fifty tambala on the kwacha after MK600, 000.

Managing gross margin helps farmers avoid problems with prices that are too low and direct costs that are too high, and hence problems with breakeven and profit. When farmers generate adequate sales but gross margins are low, it signals an issue in one or both of these areas.

Most farmers surrounding the area did not know what gross margin on sales was for different crops and involving them in calculation of gross margins for different crops such as maize, groundnuts and soya beans will help them identify the right crop to produce and therefore address the problems they were experiencing. Each participant simply knew that some of the crops they were producing was losing money and did not know where to begin to remedy the situation. The training, therefore, assisted them to address the gaps.

Farmers’ lack of understanding in gross margin analysis often leads to decisions that only worsen the farmer’s position, such as attempting to increase sales via lower prices, leading to even smaller gross margins.

Gross margin analysis does not get the attention it deserves. Farmers should be aware of the factors that will impact their margins and pay close attention to them. The participants were encouraged to find a benchmark for gross margin using data from their nearest competitors to give themselves a target to manage and be aware that the factors impacting gross margins may change over time.

Tiness Silumba at her house constructed using money realised from village savings and loan.
Village Savings and Loan Constructs a House for Tiness Silumbu

By Gibson Ngwira

Tiness Silumbu was yet to live in a better house thatched with corrugated iron sheets since her birth and little did he know she would ever live in such a house when she joined a village savings and loan group in her village.

The Integrated Rural Development Project through the Diocese of Karonga mobilized communities to form village savings and loan groups to help households save money and access small loans.

It is from here that Silumbu joined the group in her village and started to buy shares and and borrow for her small business. She had shares amounting to 1500 Malawi Kwacha.

Using money borrowed from the village savings and loan group, Tiness Silumbu started to sell ripen bananas and tomatoes within her village and at the trading centre near her home.

“When I joined the village savings and loan group in my village, I thought it was a mere fallacy,”

“Then the Field Officer for the project explained to us the importance of joining village savings and loan groups,”

“Then our money grew and each member started accessing some loans from the group for our businesses”, narrated Silumbu.

Tiness Silumbu says that she used to borrow money from her group in the range of 10,000 to 15,000 Malawi Kwacha for her business and paid back the loan without problems and kept the profits.

She says that she realizes 7,000 to 9,000 Malawi Kwacha per market day which falls once a week. It is from here where Silumbu decided to invest her money into the construction of a house and managed to buy iron sheets.

“I could buy iron sheets little by little until I bought 36 iron sheets,” said Silumbu. She continued to say that some of the money was used to buy timber and nails for roofing.

She has now constructed a 3 bedroomed house with iron sheets from the proceeds of village savings and loan (VSL). She is also a community agent for VSL where she monitors other groups in the area.

“It is hard these days to access loans from people within our village and if you are given such loans, the interest rates are too high”, said Silumbu.

She continued to say that the formation of village savings and loan groups in the area has really helped her and fellow members to keep money and access some loans at low interest rates.

“The coming in of this project has really uplifted our lives, not only on village savings and loan but also in increasing our agricultural production through use of manure and management of natural resources,” said Silumbu.

Tiness Silumbu joined village savings and loan group in January, 2017. During sharing out of the money, she had the highest share of 62,000.00 Malawi Kwacha. She hails from Kapoka 4 village, Group Village Headman Mwenekapoka in T/A Mwenemisuku, Chitipa District. The group has 14 members, (11 women and 3 men). The Integrated Rural Development Project is implementing its activities in Traditional Authority Mwenemisuku, Mwaulambya and Mwenewenya in Chita District and Kyungu in Karonga District with funding from Misereor in Germany.

CADECOM Vocational Skills Training Giving Second Chances to Men in Chisenga

By Bridget mushani

Even at village level, people can only hire people with a certain level of proficiency in a trade, people claim to be theirs. The case of Chimwemwe Nyondo, was not different whose problems began when he had just gotten married. He was weighed down by poverty which was roaming around his life like a roaring hungry lion looking for fresh to devour.

Negative thoughts engulfed the 29-year-old Chimwemwe Nyondo, who does not even want to mention the troubles he has gone through, but now he is happy with the timely rescue by the Development Desk of the Diocese of Karonga, known among the people as CADECOM.   

Chimwemwe Nyondo, from Nakalase Village in Traditional Authority Mwenewenya in Chitipa District, was trained in carpentry under the informal vocational skills training programme under the Integrated Rural Development Project. He is one of the many beneficiaries bearing testimony that if an individual is empowered with vocational skills their life, and that of their community, is transformed.

“I used to be a builder with just little knowledge and it was not easy to secure a building contract in the village. With limited means of earning income, I was finding it hard to manage my family which disturbed peace at home most of the times,”

“Thanks to the training he had with CADECOM which has restored peace and love in our family once again,” narrates Chimwemwe.

 “I used to stay idle, but thanks to CADECOM and the Catholic Church, my story is a bitter-sweet story. I enrolled on CADECOM vocational skills training program. At first I did not have courage to enroll since I had knowledge in brick laying. But I shoved out that fear, learnt the trade and here I am making a living out of carpentry,” says Nyondo with, a lovely smile of hope.

CADECOM an arm of Karonga Diocese is offering different opportunities (Bricklaying, Carpentry and Tailoring) in the area for community members who did not go farther with their education. Thus individuals in various villages are learning vocational skills under the able hands of experienced trainers.

“People in the village are giving me business nowadays; I make beds, door frames and shutters, windows, stools for them. This has also added value to my building trade such that now I build and roof houses. I am making a living through self-employment, which I could not do before. In a good month, I make 50,000 Kwacha which is more than enough to feed and clothe my family by village standards.

“At the moment, I have an assurance of a solid future with all basic necessities at my disposal if I continue working hard and perfecting my skills,” speaks out Chimwemwe while roofing a house and putting a door shutter.

Chimwemwe Nyondo on his uniform:  A beneficially of CADECOM Karonga Diocese Vocational skills program

Catholic Scout Organisation Introduced at St Mary’s Parish, Karonga

By Scout Coordinator  

Leaders of the Catholic Scout Organisation of the Diocese of Karonga on Sunday 27th October, 2019 visited St Mary’s Parish in Karonga Diocese to introduce the organization at the parish. The team was led by the Coordinator of the organization in the Diocese, Deodatus Muriya.

In his remarks during the Eucharistic celebration, during which the Scouts served as ushers and sang scout songs, the Parish Priest who is also Bishop’s and Pastoral Secretary of the Diocese of Karonga, commended the group for visiting his parish. He further urged young people in the parish to join the group as it promote peace within the Church and community.

Speaking on behalf of the group, Mr. Deodatus Muriya, who is the Coordinator of the organization at Diocesan level informed the congregation that Catholic scouting empowers young people to live as disciples of Jesus Christ in the world today.

“Scouting draws young people to responsible participation in the life, mission and work of the Catholic faith community. It fosters the total personal and spiritual growth of every young person,” said Muriya.

After the Mass, ten of the young people who showed interest to join the grouping registered their names.

Nighted Mwakapenda working in his backyard garden where SAPs technologies are being implemented
Development Desk Promoting Sustainable Agricultural Practices (SAPs) in T/A Mwaulambia

By Saloom Longwe

The common myth among farmers, subsistence and commercial alike, is no chemical fertilizer, no high crop production. This used to be the belief of Nighted Mwakapenda and fellow farmers in Mwaulambia, before they were introduced to sustainable agricultural practices which the Development Desk of the Diocese of Karonga is promoting.

As one way of improving household agricultural productivity, Integrated Rural Development Project is promoting five SAPs namely; leguminous interplanting, mulching, use of liquid manure, use of compost manure and crop rotation.

The story is different today for Mwakapenda. He is one of the farmers who have adopted the practice of 3 SAPs technologies on a single field. He is within the age bracket of 30-40, with a family size of 6 members.

Nighted cultivates cereal crops for household consumption and produces vegetables from backyard garden for food and sells the surplus.

In the garden he intercrops leaf and fruit vegetables with legumes, and with the use of compost and liquid manure crops grow with vigour hence realizing high yield in the process.

To curb the effects of harsh weather conditions, mulching is also being used to retain soil moisture and regulation of soil temperatures.

Mwakapenda has reduced use of fertilizer and allocated some of the saved funds into other activities such as livestock production and iron sheets. He appreciates that mulching helped him reduce the number of times for watering the garden per day. 

Being a role model in the area, other farmers visit him to learn from him. Mwakapenda also engages in forestry and agroforestry production, which give him material for mulching and when leaves decompose they improve soil fertility.

Mwakapenda is one of the beneficiaries of the Integrated Rural Development Project being implemented by the Development Desk of the Diocese of Karonga with support from Misereor Germany. The project is being implemented in Karonga and Chitipa districts targeting 2400 households

Father Bulambo (in clerical attire) and a cross section of participants
Judicial Vicar Reiterates the Church’s Role in Promoting Transparency and Accountability

By Norbert Tambalamtuwa Mzembe

Judicial Vicar of the Diocese of Karonga, Reverend Father Doctor Steven Bulambo, says the Catholic Church, though the Justice and Peace Desk, will not relent to advocate for justice in the society by ensuring that community members equally benefit from development projects.

Father Bulambo said this on Friday during interface meeting, between Community Action Groups (CAGs), community members and their elected representatives (Members of Parliament (MPs) and Ward Councillors), on the dissemination Annual Investment Plan (AIP) at Wasambo. 

“For people in the community to fully benefit from development projects, they must work in harmony, in a transparent and accountable manner, without stealing or plundering public funds,” exhorted Father Bulambo.

Speaking earlier during the meeting, former Wasambo ADC Chairperson, Barclare Gowa Nyasulu, said most projects in the area have stalled because of misallocation (diversion) of funds and politicization of development projects.

“These challenges arise because community members are not aware of how these funds ought to be utilized, because they do not know the amount of funds allocated and timeframe for completion of projects making it almost impossible to track the funds,” Said Nyasulu. 

He cited projects under Constituency Development Funds (CDF), District Development Fund (DDF), and Local Development Fund (LDF), where funds are not utilized for their intended purpose. Some of the projects which are yet to be completed include construction of VIP toilets at Luromo, construction of Zgeba Community Day Secondary School and Thawiro Health Center.

Nyasulu, pleaded with duty bearers to incorporate community members in planning and implementation of projects, so that funds should not be diverted to other projects.

In his reaction, Member of Parliament for Karonga South Constituency, Honourable Uchizi Vunda Mkandawire, assured the community members that he is ready to discharge his duties in a transparent and accountable manner while empowering Area Development Committee (ADC) to be fully responsible for development planning and implementation. 

He, however, was quick to mention that transparency and accountability should not only be demanded from MPs and councilors, but it should be the duty of everyone including traditional leaders, development committees and civil society organisations and community members.

Ward Councilor for Khwawa Ward, Mokachi Katunga Chirambo commended the observation of the beneficiaries of the projects and encouraged them to be partners and actors in development and not spectators.

The interface meeting was initiated by the Justice and Peace Desk of the Diocese of Karonga under the Citizen Action in Local Government Accountability (CALGA).

Project Officer for CALGA project, Vincent Bwinga, advised communities and duty bearers in Karonga to follow approved development plans when implementing projects in their areas.

This is how we do it: Practical session in progress
Karonga Diocese Development Desk Trains Sanitation Entrepreneurs

By Leah Nyondo

Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) project under the Development Desk of Karonga Diocese conducted training of sanitation entrepreneurs at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish (Chisankhwa) from 17th to 21st October 2019.

The training aimed at equipping sanitation entrepreneurs with skills on the construction of sanitation technologies such as sanplats, cement and sand screed, cobalt pit latrine and hand washing facilities. These technologies will assist in promoting hygiene and sanitation among community members.

The training was facilitated by experts from Chitipa District Hospital, Department of Water and Irrigation, local artisans and Caritas staff.

“As God sent the 12 disciples to preach in various villages and save souls, today Jesus is sending you in your communities to preach the message of sanitation and hygiene so that we save our communities from illnesses that arise due to poor sanitation and hygiene. Let’s go and preach this message to our brothers and sisters to save our communities” said Mr Kalagho Catechist for Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish.

In his remarks, Mr. Chirwa a local artisan, discouraged the newly trained WASH artisans from overcharging their fellow community members for the services because it may end up driving away many willing members who might fail to afford.

He further urged them to give freedom to their clients to pay in cash or kind. The technologies are both easy to make and use and affordable by the local community standards. At the same time, these technologies are durable.

Head Teachers and Deputy Head Teachers of Catholic Secondary Schools in the Diocese of Karonga
Association of Catholic Head Teachers Hold Their First Meeting of the Academic Year

By Madalitso Mbalazada

The Association of Catholic Head Teachers (HAC) of the Diocese of Karonga held their first meeting of the 2019/20 school session on 18th of October, 2019 at Fulirwa Community Day Secondary School in Karonga.

The association, which is comprised of head teachers and their deputies from all Catholic secondary schools in the Diocese, meets every term to discuss issues affecting their institutions. All the eight Catholic schools attended the meeting which is always graced by the Catholic Education Desk Officer, Mr Remmie Kamanga.

One of the issues discussed during the meeting is the preparations for the impending visit of counterparts from Njombe Diocese in Tanzania. Njombe Diocese and its education department is much older and well established.

The two dioceses are partners and would like to learn from each other especially in the education sector. The thirty visitors from Njombe Diocese are expected to arrive in Karonga within the early days of November and interact with the team of Catholic head teachers, visit schools and share issues of interest in education or running of Catholic schools.

The meeting also had time to evaluate last year’s mock examinations and made plans for the 2020 mock examinations for both junior and senior levels.

Issues of Child Protection Policy, school internal audits, school supervision/ inspection and in service training (inset) for Catholic secondary schools were discussed at length for the benefit of administrators and learners.

The Catholic Head teachers Association has been in existence since the creation of the Diocese of Karonga and it is a branch of the Education Desk which falls under the Caritas Commission. The association organizes workshops on catholic education policy, leadership and management to facilitate the better running of Catholic schools.

The association believes in what is articulated in the Catholic Education Policy Handbook that; “All people of whatever race, condition or age, by virtue of their dignity as human persons, have an inalienable right to education. … true education is directed towards the formation of the human person in view of his/her final end and the good of that society to which he/she belongs and in the duties of which he/she will, as an adult, have a share,” (Gravissimum Educationis G.E. para. 1). 

The above statement motivates and gives a sense of purpose and divine duty to the administrators so that they administer Catholic schools and have a holistic approach to education.