Focus Group Discussions- pix by Stella Zulu
BY: STELLA ZULU
Two representatives from Caritas Australia visited The Catholic Development Commission of Malawi (CADECOM); a developmental arm of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM) to learn and appreciate how the Strength-Based Approach (SBA) method to development has benefitted people in Rumphi district.

CADECOM has been using SBA in implementing the Australian African Community Engagement Scheme (AACES) in the district until last year when it phased out, hence the visit of the two to appreciate its impact on the ground.

“We have heard and read a lot about the success stories of AACESS through the Strength-Based Approach. We would like to learn from the experiences and achievements of this Scheme from the beneficiaries themselves and other stakeholders so that we should teach other countries” said Ian, one of the representatives.

Through this approach, CADECOM trained the communities to use the naturally available resources in the fight against poverty. Some of the developmental initiatives that have been achieved through SBA include the making of Stoves from the soils which the people use for cooking, Irrigation farming, animal farming and the use of toilets to improve hygiene in the district.

People have also realized that they have the right to development, as such; they approach the government and other service providers with confidence to ask for the services and resources like iron sheets they can’t find locally. This has also improved the relationship between the people and the government as they reach a consensus through dialogue on what needs to be done in the communities which leads to sustainable development.

This is as opposed to the past where the government and other stakeholders were imposing on the communities what they felt to be of importance without the people’s say. All these were witnessed by the Caritas representatives through the Focus Group Discussions (FDG) held with the community members.

“We are able to mobilize ourselves for action whenever we see a development gap in our community. This is the case because now we realize that we do not have to wait for external development players always to get our needs addressed.” Explained one of the participants in the FDG

It was also stressed by women that domestic relationships have also improved in the families; men no longer leave the work load on women alone as it used to be in the past. This is as a result of the gender awareness campaign, the communities had with the CADECOM Extension workers.

The initiatives have helped in conserving the environment, save the people’s time when preparing food and saves women from walking long distances to fetch firewood.

CADECOM has been implementing this project for five years with funding from Caritas Australia.

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