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Category Development Desk

New lease of life: Estida Msonda standing on her newly built house.
Karonga District Council Commends Development Desk’s Disaster Preparedness Project

By Ellah Chirwa

Karonga District Council has commended the Development Desk (also known as CADECOM) of the Diocese of Karonga for training communities, living in disaster prone areas of Traditional Authorities Mwkaboko, Mwirangombe and Wasambo, in disaster preparedness.

New lease of life: Estida Msonda standing on her newly built house.
New lease of life: Estida Msonda standing on her newly built house.

This commendation was made by Senior Fire Officer in the Department of Disaster – Search and Rescue Cluster, Nicholas Chirwa, during a joint field monitoring tour in areas that are prone to strong winds and floods organised by the Development Desk in collaboration with Karonga District Council.

In an interview the council’s representative, Nicholas Chirwa, said as a council, they are impressed with the way people have responded to the project’s interventions saying they are sure that many people will be protected from possible disasters in the coming rainy season. He further said the project has assisted residents to understand that disasters can be prevented.

“The project had a number of interventions such as training in borehole rehabilitation, demonstration of strong winds and flood resistant houses, tree planting, and planting river gauge and rain gauge which have adopted by the community,” Chirwa said.

Chirwa further urged the Development Desk to continue with the project saying this will help the district to significantly reduce disaster records.

In his remarks Matthias Bulukutu, who is the coordinator of the project, said he was satisfied with the positive response from the communities.

“At least three vulnerable people were selected as beneficiaries for the demonstration houses designed to resist wind and water pressure, 8 thousand tree seedlings were distributed in the three impact areas, and three boreholes were also rehabilitated,” Bulukutu said.

Bulukutu further urged the community members to continue participating in the project to ensure sustainability of the interventions.

One of the beneficiaries selected for the demonstrations of houses, Estida Msonda, 65 years old, has appreciated the Development Desk for the kind gesture saying the house she was living in with her daughters and grandchildren was not decent enough.

 “To live in an iron sheet thatched house is a testimony I have to give because I was living in a leaking house and it was also infested with mosquitoes. This made our household susceptible to malaria which made us visit the hospital frequently. I will take good care of this house,” Msonda said.

The Development Desk has been implementing the Karonga Participatory Community Action for Preparedness (KPCAP) with the aim of preparing communities living in areas that are prone to natural disasters, such as strong winds and floods.

Estida Msonda's old house
Rehabilitated borehole
Rehabilitated borehole
Disaster resilient house
Disaster resilient house
A+ Project Officer Martin Manda speaking during the event
Communities Encouraged to Protect Trees from Wild Fire

By Grace Mphwere Mvoso

Community members in the area of Traditional Authority (TA) Mwalweni in Rumphi District have been urged to adopt the culture of planting trees around their homes as one way of replenishing trees that have been depleted over the years.

The A+ Project Officer Martin Manda made the remarks on Saturday at Luwendera Primary School during the launch of the 2020 tree planting exercise aimed at controlling the flow of water to check soil erosion.

“We decided to come here because Rumphi is one of disaster prone areas in the country. We believe that these trees will provide ground cover and reduce the velocity of water,” Manda said.

TA Mwalweni (in red) planting a tree with the help of District Forestry Officer

Manda further pleaded with the traditional leaders to properly allocate land for farming and settlement to their subjects in well designated areas to avoid constructing houses along river banks.

Speaking on behalf traditional leaders, TA Mwalweni said he is happy that this initiative is taking place in his area and has since advised pupils and the community around the school to take care of the planted trees.

Taking her turn, Masida Chibaka, a Standard 6 pupil at the school said the trees planted near her school will help to protect her school from heavy winds. She also said she will take care of the trees by clearing the area around the trees.

However, the District Forestry Officer Gift Nyirenda said Rumphi District is one of the districts that has planted a lot of trees but a lot have failed to grow due to poor management.

“One of the factors that has contributed to the dying of trees is wild fire in the dry months of September, October and November. Therefore, I appeal to the whole community develop a spirit of ownership to protect the trees from wild fire and livestock”, he said.

The Development Desk of the Diocese of Karonga is facilitating the planting of 3,500 trees during this national forestry season in Rumphi District under the A+ Project with financial assistance from Caritas Australia.

Lucient Gondwe dries maize harvested from her irrigation field
Development Desk Makes Farmers Smile during Lean Period

By Harold Mwale

The Development Desk of the Diocese of Karonga recently trained and supported farmers in the area of Traditional Authority Mwalweni in Rumphi District in a bid to respond to the challenge of food insecurity in the area.

This was done to improve livelihoods of small-scale farmers and land users who often lack access to the agricultural services required to enhance their knowledge and skills in order to manage situations when there is scarcity of staple food.

Most ADMARC depots, in Rumphi, are characterized by long queues during the lean months of January and February with some depots running out of maize due to high demand. These conditions adversely affect smallholder farmers who spend more time at the market while others go for casual labour as a cope up mechanisms.

Thanks to A+ Project, Lucient Gondwe of Village Headman Vwalamanja, under Luwendera VDC can now afford a smile during the lean period. She is a smallholder farmer, and member of Mkonola B Irrigation Scheme.

As a member of the scheme she started serious irrigation farming in 2019 after the project had mobilized them to establish the community vision through the strength based approach. The community’s vision included eradication of hunger through irrigation farming which encouraged her to join the scheme and produce maize, leafy vegetables and tomatoes on her plot.

Aged 59, Lucient is a widow who lives with 5 grandchildren. Malnutrition among her children and the surrounding areas was frighteningly high during the same time in the previous years.

“The situation was bad because most women spent a good time at the Nutrition Rehabilitation Unit. We were all affected and development, at a household level, was also affected because time was spent with children at the hospital. Currently, we are not affected by hunger and we have enough food which will take us to the next harvest and we are living happily,” she added.

Lucient is also a member of village savings and loan group where she obtained a loan to purchase fertilizer which she applied to her maize field.

Jimu Msukwa at his carpentry shop early this year making final touches on his products
Carpentry Skills Make Positive Impact On Jimu Msukwa

By Gibson Ngwira

Jimu Msukwa hails from John 1 Village in Group Village Headman Mwenechipwela, Traditional Authority Mwenemisuku in Chitipa District where he was born and raised. Jimu lost his father while he was very young and has been brought up by his mother only.

“I cannot remember when my father died because he died when I was very young”, says Jimu Msukwa. “I only went as far as grade 8 since my mother could not provide adequate support to me,” he lamented.

Jimu Msukwa with his pigs purchased using money from his carpentry skills. Behind him is his mother’s house which he has helped to construct
Jimu Msukwa with his pigs purchased using money from his carpentry skills. Behind him is his mother’s house which he has helped to construct

Jimu Msukwa was one of 8 carpentry professionals trained in the area with assistance from Integrated Rural Development Project under the Development Desk of the Diocese of Karonga. After graduating, he set up his own carpentry shop where he does his trade. He is the only reliable carpenter in an area of 4 villages.

“When I make my products, I raise an average of 30, 000.00 Malawi Kwacha per month”, says Msukwa.

He says that he has managed to buy three pigs and he has also assisted in buying iron sheets for his mother’s house.

“When I was enrolling for the carpentry skills, I thought it was a joke. But now I am enjoying the fruits of the project,”

 “I am now able to help my mother and my relatives through the skills acquired from this project and I will live to remember. I really thank the project for transforming my life,” he said.

Integrated Rural Development Project, which is being implemented with support from Misereor Germany, has so far empowered 12 professionals in tailoring, 8 in carpentry and 7 in brick laying in three villages development areas of Kapoka, Chipwela and Samchipwela.

The training was held at Chipwela Trading Center, in Traditional Authority Mwenemisuku in Chitipa District. The training was provided on community based approach and was run for 6 consecutive months from mid-June to December, 2018.

Group photos during the field day at Kasonkhwe
Development Desk Promotes Conservation Agriculture in Traditional Authority Mwalweni

By Harold Mwale

Effects of climate change and environmental degradation have not spared the area of Traditional Authority Mwalweni which is under Saint Francis De Sales Parish of Karonga Diocese in Rumphi District.

The topography of the area makes it susceptible to soil erosion, especially when farmers do not follow proper soil and water conservation practices and or leave the land bare, due to deforestation and other practices. Most farmers in the area cultivate their crops in hilly areas which necessitates proper soil and water conservation technologies.

It is against this background that the Development Desk through Africa Australia Community Engagement Scheme Plus (AACES Plus – A+) organized a farmer field school field day at Kasonkhwe in TA Mwalweni in order to promote conservation agriculture in the community.

Mulched pit planting demonstration plot
Mulched pit planting demonstration plot

The field day among other things aimed at promoting the use of locally available resources to conserve soil and water.

The farmer field school which was mounted in August 2019 and managed by 30 farmers where 17 are females include plots showcasing different technologies where farmers through irrigation farming experiment use of locally available resources to conserve soil and water. Plots showcasing three core elements of conservation agriculture including minimal tillage operations, permanent vegetative residue for soil cover (mulching using thatching grass), and rotation of primary crops were mounted and showcased.

In addition, crop production plots such as tomato production, Irish potatoes, use of Tephrosia vogelii to control fall army worm, leafy vegetable production, and other water conservation technologies such as check dams, swales, and use of contour and box ridges were also showcased during the field day. This was done to encourage participating farmers shift from conventional tillage practices to conservation ones.

Farmers appreciated the technologies and commended their fellow farmers for significantly implementing the Farmer Field School approach and learning from their own experiences through hands on experiments from the different plots at the school.

The field day ended with processing where the government agriculture extension field staff took a leading facilitation role to explain the importance of conservation agriculture and Farmer Field School approach which include: enabling smallholder farmers to master the management skills required for sustainable production intensification; increasing ownership since Farmer Field Schools are constructed by smallholder farmers; increasing farmers’ access to extension services since they mostly have limited access to education, information, extension services, market access and financial capital.

The government extension staff also explained that No-tillage has beneficial effects on soil preservation. The retention of crop residues at the soil surface prevents water erosion by reducing the direct impact of raindrops and that conservation agriculture improves soil quality, optimizes crop yields and reduces input costs. It also improves water capture and use efficiency.

Small-scale farmers and land users often lack access to the agricultural services they require to enhance their knowledge and skills in order to manage increasingly difficult agro-ecosystems. Smallholder farmers and other rural land users manage increasingly difficult environments while also being subjected to changes driven by nature and outside pressures.

These land users are the country’s largest group of custodians of biodiversity and play a critical role in efficiently managing natural resources like water and soil, thus ensuring that future generations can also continue to use and benefit from these resources. It is, therefore, recommended that promotion of conservation agriculture through Farmer Field Schools be offered special attention.

Mwamphashi during one of his test ride trips
Farmers in Chitipa Hail Collective Marketing Introduced by Karonga Diocese

By Saloom Longwe

Ownex Mwamphashi aged 38, living with a family of 7 members including his wife and 5 children, hails from Mugalure Village, T/A Mwabulambia in Chitipa district.

Mwamphashi is one among several farmers enjoying the fruits of joining Farmer’s Club which later turn to operate in Collective Marketing with many other farmer clubs.     

In September 2019, Karonga Diocese through its Development Desk initiated collective marketing which aimed at bringing farmers together for collective bargaining power when buying agricultural inputs and selling agricultural produce.

In October 2019, Mwamphashi managed to buy a motorbike from the proceeds of crop sales. With the aid of collective marketing, he sold about 2,800 kilograms of surplus maize at a price of MK270 per kilogram against a prevailing market price of which is below MK200 per kilogram. The total revenue he realized was MK756,000 to which he added some money raised from livestock sales to get MK800,000, which was the cost price of the motorbike.

Mwamphashi is now living a happily life having acquired a means of transport which will ease mobility as he is comes from a typical remote area where transport is one of their major challenges.

The family of Mwamphashi applauds to the initiative by the Karonga Diocese saying, “It has come to empower the community economically” unlike in the past when they could carry their produce to a bordering country Tanzania with no say on the price offered by traders.       

Collective marketing has proved its goodness to farmers in T/A Mwabulambia who for the past years have suffered a lot when accessing agro-markets such that their only choice was Isongole in Tanzania.

Many farmers have been victimized with tricky traders where most available markets are marred with intermediate traders who offer below standard agricultural inputs and low prices for farm produce.

With support from MISEREOR the Diocese of Karonga through its Development Desk is implementing a 3 year Integrated Rural Development Project in Karonga and Chitipa districts. Improving household economic level is one of the operational objectives, of which Farmers Collective Markets is a leading indicator. The project is targeting a population of 2,400 households in 4 traditional areas of Kyungu in Karonga, Mwenemisuku, Mwabulambia, and Mwenewenya in Chitipa.

Abigail on the Path to Economic Independence: Thanks to Vocational Skills Programme

By Saloom Longwe*

Unemployment rate among graduates from formal and informal colleges is on the rise in the country. This is compounded by the tendency of most graduates is to sit on the knowledge and skills acquired and wait for the day when they will be hired.

Abigail Siyeni, a graduate from the vocational skills training programme of the Development Desk of the Diocese of Karonga defies all odds to rise above the common practice and employ herself. From her story, it is clear that she is on the path to greatness, with or without a further push.

Twenty-year-old Abigail, who hails from T/A Mwaulambia in Chitipa District, enrolled for a course in Tailoring and Designing at Nkhangwa Youth Vocational Training Centre established by the Diocese of Karonga.

She underwent a four-month long course where, together with her friends, she acquired basic tailoring skills such as fashion designing, sketching, measuring, cloth cutting and joining.

During training, the commitment of Abigail could not be missed as she could be seen sewing school uniforms, skirts and blouses, shorts and shirts, trousers, men’s and ladies’ suits and many more fashions. Most of the times, she could bring old clothes that required mending out of which she gained experience and competence.

After completing her training, Abigail negotiated with a community member to lend her a sewing machine. She was given after agreeing a monthly rental fee. She identified a place within her village and opened a tailoring shop at Kafora Trading Center where she plies her trade.

Through her dedication to duty and mastery of the art of sewing and designing, Abigail has gained a number of loyal customers who are never disappointed in what she produces for them.

Through her hard work and tailoring skills, and customer satisfaction, Abigail realizes good returns. Apart from waiting for people to bring their cloth or clothes, she also buys clothing materials out of which she produces new fashionable garments for sale.

In a good week, she buys clothing materials worth MK10,000. She produces new garments and realizes a profit of more than MK20,000 after selling. Abigail produces school uniforms which she sells at MK2,000 (blouse and skirt/ short and shirt), Safari shirts at MK3,000 and national wear at MK5,000 and ladies suits at MK8,000. 

Having laid her business foundation, Abigail still aims high. She is looking for possible opportunities to grow her business and own a big tailoring shop in one of the towns in the country.

With financial support from MISEREOR, Karonga Diocese through its Development Desk is implementing a three-year Integrated Rural Development Project in Karonga and Chitipa districts targeting 2,400 households.One 0f its objectives is to train 165youthin Vocational skills by July 2020.

*Saloom Longwe is Field Officer under the Development Desk based in Chitipa District

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.

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.