I am thankful that as a part of my in country orientation and training included travel to meet other EWB workers in their field sites. This included three visits one to Mangochi, one to Liwonde and one to NkhotaKota.
In Mangochi Eric and I met Gabe the WatSan team APS. He is a valuable resource to the team as this is his second placement in Malawi with EWB and he is quick learner of the local language Chichewa. While we had unfortunate luck with meetings and field visits actually happening during this trip, we made the most of our time there by having short discussions with District staff, Gabe and Junior Fellow (JF) Yue Yun. The most important and relevant conversation for me was with the Mangochi District Water Officer who explained the wide range of donor styles. For privacy’s sake I will not name each donor by name, but instead give an indication of the range of styles:
-One donor frequently change their policies, does experiments on the districts, keeps District involvement at a minimum – if any at all, and has poor quality projects. All of this makes it difficult for the District to trust them.
-One does not have agreements at all with the Districts, meaning implementation is controlled at central government level. So, the donor will just show up and work in a district with very little communication.
-One comes to the District but does all of the implementation on their own.
-Others let the district have the money and be in control of the projects they have decided are appropriate. Meaning, this donor still has a plan with goals, but is more flexible with how the goals are achieved.
It was interesting for me to hear from a very competent and highly educated man how each donor works so differently with him and his office and the variations in what they deemed him and his office capable of doing.
We also took some time to enjoy each other’s company and explore Mangochi.
Then Eric and I headed to Liwonde where we met EWB staff Macmillon and JF Franny to attend an Area Development Committee (ADC) meeting. An ADC is a local group of people who form the main local government structure responsible for planning and coordination of any development committees at the Traditional Authority level. They are responsible for mobilizing and supporting the Village Development Committees (VDCs) and the entire community. It was an interesting meeting (even though it was all in Chichewa) because it was the group was able to voice their concerns about the work they were doing, and a person who works for the District but has little experience running such meetings was doing so, so it provided a learning opportunity for him and for us on how to keep a conversation headed in the right direction.
My third trip was to visit JF Miriam who has been working in NkhotaKota evaluating the ability of a local NGO to work effectively with the District on WASH projects in their area, so that when the project ends in two years and the NGO pulls out the District can still maintain the activities sustainably. I was there for this meeting and while many key people were not able to show up for a variety of reasons it was great to see the participation levels of those present and their willingness to make changes to improve the project’s sustainability.
A fun side note of that trip was driving through my first game park reserve. This park has very few animals, so I was lucky enough to see some baboons! I unfortunately couldn’t get any pictures of them. But the views were nice!
Also had a chance to visit beautiful Lake Malawi for the first time! A visit that included cheesecake!
Later this week… my nsima challenge!