“Proud vegetable farmer”

Meet Mr Sikonda Chitsulo, a 38 year old a husband and a father to 4 children. He comes from Village Headman Katengeza in Katengeza area. He explained how his vegetable production have improved through Katengeza clubs. He is one of the indirect beneficiaries who have benefited through the FOCCAD Agriculture extension services which includes promoting small scale vegetable production. He has been a vegetable farmer for a long time now yet he wasn’t able to realize more yields and profits due to lack of knowledge and support.

When FOOCAD came this year to support farmers organisations with effective and efficient agriculture extension services at Katengeza, “I was interested with the services on vegetable production as such I was shared vegetable seeds and bean seeds to plant in my 0.5 acre plot in dambos and I was also advised to plant different vegetables not only one, hence I planted Tomatoes, Rape, Mpiru,beans, maize and Egg plants. Thereafter I was being visited frequently by the FOCCAD Agriculture Extension worker where I was being advised on the management of my Vegetables.

Mr Chitsulo in his garden

Now I am able to see change in my farming as I have healthy crops and I am getting more Food to provide for my family than before. I have increased my income by 46%,  For instance, now I have MK65,000 from selling Tomatoes which I have just started selling while previously I could only get MK30,000 after selling all of my tomatoes, I have MK22,000 from selling Mpiru, eggplant and Rape and I have MK18,000 from selling Beans while previously I could just get MK8,000 from selling Mpiru. I used the income to pay bills for laborer’s at my Cassava Plot, I also used the money to  buy household necessities, I bought clothes for my children and I am also planning to buy another bicycle as I also do Kabanza. I also plan to use the money to buy soya seeds and sell them and also to buy school materials for my children. Thanks to FOCCAD now I can see the benefits of farming and I am happy now considering that I am able to support my family by providing them with food and income.” Said Mr Chitsulo.

Mr Chitsulo packaging his Tomatoes to go for marketing.

He is also planning to be an active member of Katengeza cooperative and expand his tomato production so that he can be selling to the cooperative for processing.

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Leaving no one behind in SRHR

If you ask a woman all she needs from a man, I guess “undivided attention” could be the answer. In what seemed a dramatic turn of events, emerged a life time story of hope and love worth telling. Once beaten twice shy as the saying goes, both of them agreed never to take a second chance. While people saw end of the once ever happy and cool living family, in the absence of the once caring and loving husband, she saw a new beginning and a milestone for change at the end of the tunnel, indeed brevity, perseverance and endurance had to take the day. Today, sitting on their veranda, clad in typical village attire, in a jovial mood I tell a tale for James Zimba and Mercy Longwe (not real names) a couple in Ndomo fishing community in Nkhotakota district- Malawi.

James Zimba and Mercy Longwe of Khonde village T/A Mphonde in Nkhotakota district got married in 2000. The couple has 6 children with the eldest aged 16 years while the youngest is 7 years old. Despite living together as a couple, James had many other girl friends that occupied his life and consumed his meager and hard earned resources from fishing. As culture in rural Malawi expects, Mercy persevered despite living in fear of contracting HIV. She couldn’t leave her home as she was not divorced hence family members couldn’t support the vice, so was a terrible situation perpetrated by cultural beliefs, expectations for a real woman and gender imbalances. To show Mercy that the war was not over, life became tougher when in 2009 James married a second wife on top of the other girl friends.

“Mercy failed to satisfy me sexually, there were things she couldn’t change and do in bed” James was quoted as saying without elaborating how he wanted Mercy to perform in bed despite being probed.

“Despite living in fear I couldn’t live my matrimonial home as I had nowhere to get support for the six children” this is all Mercy could say when asked why she kept living with a man whose behavior was risky and never gave her chance to make decisions and choices to access SRHR services. While life was quite different from the time James married a second wife, Mercy was as strong as ever. According to her, children slept on an empty stomach most of the times and depended highly on neighbors as James stopped providing for the family, considering that his attention was greatly divided between the two wives and other sexual partners. Chifundo Banda is a peer educator, CBDA and Expert provider in Ndomo fishing community, for FOCCADs and a neighbor to the Zimba family. As a well trained peer educator, Chikondi saw the danger in James’s behavior and way of conduct and decided to reach the couple with SRHR and family planning related talks to influence behavior change in James.

Coupled with HIV messages from the peer educator and stories within the village about her fellow woman in marriage, Mercy had no peace of mind until she made a decision to get tested for cervical cancer and HIV and start family planning to avoid conceiving further. During his second visit to the couple Useni introduced a topic on HIV testing and counseling to motivate them and bring hope back to Mercy who lived in fear and stress on suspicion. Foundation for Community and Capacity Development (FOCCAD) is implementing door to door HIV testing, access to family planning and condoms in an effort to increasing access to SRHR in fishing communities far from health facilities. Chikondi knew the dates for the next visit for SRHR counselors and providers and communicated the same to the couple. While Mercy was ready to test for HIV, the case was different for James.

“I always made sure to know the dates for the next visit of the counselors. I would go fishing as quickly as possible so that the counselors would not find me home” this was James’s tactic in running away from Knowing his status or to allow Mercy access family planning.

James family and counselor.

Another light of change came to Mercy when she had an HIV test and the result was negative. Mercy couldn’t believe this result and vowed to maintain her stand of no sex without HIV testing. The message that she was negative was a huge relief and a milestone in convincing her husband to take a test during the next visit of counselors. In a clever manner Mercy coaxed her husband to invite a counselor and have an HIV test as a couple which they did and tested negative.

The power for an HIV negative result was enough to change life for the Zimba’s. James was convinced to stay faithful and maintain one love as introduced during the sessions with the peer educator and ensure family planning. Mercy and James are living a happy and healthy pattern of life as witnessed during a visit to their home. The happy couple can now afford meals, children are going to school and James started making savings on the resources from fishing. Today, James and Mercy have joined fishing community group of peer educators in promoting SRHR and family planning. They conduct talks with fellow couples, James targets fellow fishermen at the lake while Mercy is a role model to other women and can explain her turn over in a compelling manner. James and Mercy, a song worth singing.

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Esther Grem is a 40-year-old single mother of 2 who comes from Mpamantha in Nkhotakota. She was diagnosed with HIV in 2008 during one of her antenatal visits when she was pregnant with her first child. Grem says due to lack of more information, she did not manage to stay adherent to treatment to the point that her first born was also diagnosed with HIV at 2 years. “My daughter and I would frequently get sick by then” says Grem.

She was introduced to FOCCAD health programing in 2013 through the last mile health approach championed by community health agents and outreach service delivery. “We were following up on her as a defaulter and when we found her and her daughter they were very sick” says Charity Gwaluka one of the Community Health Agents and an expert client under FOCCAD. Grem was then registered into the PMTCT/ART program and received intensive monitoring and counselling and supported with emergency transport services ever since to access treatment from Nkhotakota District Hospital (30km). Grem says the support that she received from FOCCAD through throughout these years using CBO, Community, clinic collaboration has been an encouragement for her to stay adherent to treatment.  As a result she has even managed to prevent her 2-year-old daughter from contracting the Virus.

Picture showing the Community Health Agents and Esther Grem a client.

Grem expressed that she now rarely gets sick and her Viral Load results are always below detectable levels. In the month of August 2020, she went with her 6 weeks old daughter for DBS test and it has come out negative. “I know she will also come out negative at 2 years and when she does I will bring your (as in FOCCAD’S) daughter so you can see her. Over the past years, Grem has enjoyed well supported 60 visits to the health facilities without spending and the community health agents have visited her 100 times.

“Grem is one of the most adherent clients we have, she never misses an appointment and she sets an example to other women who are also positive, too bad we could not save the first born” expressed Gwaluka the CHA. Grem is among over 3456 FOCCAD supports and over 9256 women living with HIV supported through emergency transport system and last mile health of reaching the hard to reach in Malawi.

FOCCAD last mile health supports women, children and young adults access quality SRHR through emergency transport systems to health facilities and last mile health outreach services to hard to reach homes.

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Evance : I had all hopes that my life will change.

It is every person’s hopes to have a brighter future in life after higher education, but hopes are fulfilled only if you have proper resources helping in building your hopes, we are talking of school fees, scholastic materials and even support from people helping to fulfill your dreams, most youths in Nkhotakota fails to finish their higher education due to lack of financial support for their academics.

Evance Yohane from mgomba village was one of them, he was a young man who completed his secondary education with good grades that he could have been selected to one of the public universities but he failed even to attempt the university entrance examinations because he couldn’t afford to search for finances to help him with.

It was so pathetic because I had all hopes that my life will change as soon as I will finish my studies from the university but it was contrary from what happed, I had no any support financially so that I could attend the entrance examinations as a result I gave up and I had no any hope  for my future”

FOCCAD introduced free computer lessons with resources from crossroads foundation (furniture, computers and education stationary) which helped the Organization to revamp its youth corner, computer lessons accommodates young people who wants to pursue their studies higher so that they can be self – reliant after obtaining computer skills. Evance was enrolled as one of the computer lessons learners at FOCCAD youth corner, after he was enrolled Evance was not missing classes he made sure all assignments were submitted in time he was one of best learners in their class, after completion of 3 months computer course, Evance secured a job with Partners In Hope (PIH) as a data clerk deployed at Nkhotakota District Hospital .

ICT learners during lessons.

Now Evance is managing to give support to his siblings and other relations from his monthly earnings from his work and he can proudly stand out from the crowd and declare that after he saw himself as helpless man with no hopes who was relying on peace works to get every day upkeep now he is a complete man whom other people are depending on.

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PHOTO: Group of young people from youth clubs after information sharing session.

Family planning is one of the crucial service among young people, girls especially, if we talk of availability of the service in health facilities is no longer an issue with the existence of youth friendly health services and well trained service providers. “But how the service can be flexible to accommodate girls and boys?” FOCCAD as one of the active Organisation in Nkhotakota district dealing with youth well-being in SRHR accessibility, the organization introduced community youth communicators to reach fellow youth members in communities with SRHR (family planning) information dissemination, just to fill the gap which was between young people and the service provider in response to alarming figures of teen pregnancies and early forced marriage.

Katimbira being one of areas affected with issues of family planning among girls took part in reducing cases of teen pregnancies and early forced marriages through FOCCAD intervention under Elma general funding where youth members from youth clubs were trained as community youth communicators.   Katimbira youth communicators contributed on fueling up accessibility of family planning methods at katimbira health center, the  health facility applaud with youth communicators because of their good work on reaching out boys and girls to access the services.

At first boys and girls thought that family planning methods were for people who are married, and the misconception about  family planning stopped them from accessing the services, and they could feel shy to talk to the service providers about the service but because of the information they get often from youth communicators led them to start accessing  the service. 

Youth communicators are able to gather boys and girls during information sharing on family planning methods and this has helped girls and boys to access family planning from the health facilities

In narration Bright Dakalira chairperson at katimbira youth club and he is one of the youth communicators in the area, said, “for the past years  girls who dropped out from school due to teenage pregnancies were many, because girls and boys did not have youth gatherings and share information on how they can avoid teenage pregnancies that can lead them to early forced marriages, currently  through our regular meetings with boys and girls, young people are openly accessing family planning methods from the health facility

Katimbira is one of the catchment area that is doing well with youth activities, the youth communicators are very active and they have a good coordination with the youth health friendly service provider at the facility as such provision of the services required to young people is no longer an issue at Katimbira because of good work that is offered by the youth communicators which contributed to youth mind set change over contraceptive methods.

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‘’VSLs has improved my Livelihood’’

Mr Wami Ndala at his unfinished house.

Wami Ndala a married man aged 40 with five children (4 females and a male) is also member of Mpandawadonthi village savings and loans from Village in T/A Mwadzama, Nkhotakota district. 

Being a parent, the burden of taking care of himself and five children was too much since he was not doing anything besides farming and for quite some time Ndala tried VSL which never benefited him in any way. Much as the main focus was on saving the money so that upon sharing he could just lump sum of cash from get his savings but nothing worked for him. He could get the loans from his VSL but its utilization was not efficient as at the end of it he could also struggle to pay back the loan. He explained how his story changed following coaching and mentorship sessions on small scale businesses and loan utilization conducted to his VSL group

“Through coaching and mentorship sessions in financial and business management which given by FOCCAD this year in my VSL group, I was motivated to start a small scale business that in March 2020 I got a loan of 80,000. 00 which I used as follows; MK10, 000.00 was invested in business of buying and selling fish, MK50,000 I bought a bicycle for transport business, I also use the same to transport my Fish to the market and the other MK20,000 I used it to buy and sell vegetables.

From investments made I managed to generate MK 150,000 which I used to mold 8 thousand bricks, pay a builder, buy flames for my house and I also used the money to cultivate winter vegetables and rice from which I have been feed supporting my family with basic needs and I have bought three goats.

To be honest my household has totally improved.I plan to maintain my vegetable garden as it was complementing my selling business at the same time I was getting food from them as my vegetables grew well through the technical support from FOCCAD.

He is expecting to finish his house by December as all the raw materials have already been bought. He is continuing his fish selling and vegetables business so that he can also buy farm inputs for the rain season farming.

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“Growing healthy winter maize through improved farming practices”

Kalebe farmers club with 25 members from Mpamantha, Village headman Kalebe in T/A Malenga chanzi in Nkhotakota has been facing challenges in farming due to lack of technical support on extension service as such they were doing farming with old farming practices hence they were experiencing low yields. In 2018 the club did winter cropping of Maize in their one acre plot but they had a problem of fall army worm to the point that they spent more money on buyig pesticides which did not solve the problem hence they incured losses as they did not even harvest the dried maize they just sold it as mondokwa which also its income was not enough compared to the expectures on the plot. Hence in 2019 the club did not even bother to do the winter cropping for Maize on their club plot because they lost hope of having Hearthy maize crop.

When FOCCAD came this year in January providing us with technical support on agricultural extension services, our club have received the support on different topics such as early pranting, using eary maturing varieties, correct plant spacing, also sessions on soil and water conservation methods such as using ditches, canals , mulching, post harvesting management which involv taking care of crops from the field to storage. We took it upon ourselves to do winter cropping for Maize in our one acre club plot as maize did not do well this year in our area and apply the knowledge gained during the sessions.

Picture showing healthy cobbs in the plot.

“We planted Kanyani variety of maize on 1st May,2020 using Sasakawa method, we made ditches and canals for easy watering and we innovated the use of plastic papers with our small pipe so that every member should take part during watering. We continued to receive technical suppport from FOCCAD where advice on management of the plot was given on each field visit. When the maize was at knee length we observed fall army worm in the field as such it was devastating to think that we will also lose our maize this year, however through FOCCAD we were advised on the correct pesticides to apply and the correct time to apply them, we followed the advise and our maize grew well up to the point now that it has maize cobs that in two weeks time will be matured. Since the time we applied the fall army worms were not seen anymore which was to our advantage as we did not buy other pesticides hence reducing costs as the cost that was incured was on buying fertilizer” said Mr Phiri one of the club members.

“We have realized MK274,000 after selling the green maize in bulk which is more than previously where we could only manage to get MK102,000 and we were just selling anyhow. We are planning to buy farm inputs for rain season to do rainy season cropping on the same plot and also share the returns equally among the members and also out of it we have learnt a lot which we will be able to practice in our own plots. Our goal is that each and every member should have food and income in their households to support the children and also to practice these improved practices in our own plots during rain season as now we have learnt how they works. Now we are leading as an example in our community as other people are learning from us as at firs they thoutht that we will not reach this far with our maize plot” said Mr Kalebe a club member and also achief of the village.

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