Self Help Africa

  

Self Help Africa is the new magic word and the name of a program that has several groups around the country in Malawi. So we went to see one of those new, inspiring groups in the Zomba region. After some indications received by officials, we ended up in one of the local offices of the Ministry of Agriculture in a small village. There they told us the Self Help Africa group did not exist any more because the donor stopped. Apparently a Self Help group starts on the basis of donations and is supposed to do things alone after a while. What could have been done was to hand the group over to local officials or other projects but this wasn’t done. Logically, in my eyes, as the method was supposed to be self help so why hand it over. Anyway not the most successful project I heard about so far…

At the office that was about agriculture, we did see a girl who came there for help: she was bitten several times by a raging (rabies) dog. She was placed on a bike and fastly driven away: I don’t know where, given the fact that we were a bit in the middle of nowhere – and I don’t know how much time she would have. She was very calm and very sad. I hope she ended up well.

Other blogs about this theme:
Millenium village Southern Malawi
Aid for orphans in Malawi

Other blogs about this region:
Zomba: creative use of waterpipes
Malawi Fever Tree

Dead Aid in Malawi

dead aid  Dambisa Moyo is an economist, born in Zambia, and the author of the New York Times Bestseller “Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa”. In the past fifty years, she writes, more than $1 trillion in development-related aid has been transferred from rich countries to Africa. Has this assistance improved the lives of Africans? No. In fact, across the continent, the recipients of this aid are not better off as a result of it, but worse—much worse. Dead Aid offers proposals for developing countries to finance development, instead of relying on foreign aid. If you don’t know about her ideas yet, find more at www.dambisamoyo.com.

Walking around in Malawi, that is among the 5 poorest countries in the world and relies for more than 50% of the national budget on external donors, her book becomes a living truth. The police here is paid by the English, treatment against aids for over 300.000 people is paid by the Italians. On every corner a charity can be found but there appears to be no economy. Moreover, the harvest has failed in large parts of the country so that hunger is expected the coming months for over a million people here. I have never been in a country that was more desperately seeking for aid, and that donors feel compelled to give aid to. The words of Dambisa Moyo that aid is an addiction, both for donors and for receivers, can be seen in practice here.

Many workers ‘in the field’ realize that aid, after fifty (!) years of aid already, is not the right answer for the problems of Malawi. A totally different approach is necessary, but they are squeezed between the two groups of aid-addicts:
1. The donors on the one side who want to answer to immediate needs of the Malawi people in the same way they always did, and who in many cases pay their salaries and the means they work with;
2. The Malawi people on the other side for whom it has become completely normal to rely on external sources and to ask for more, as much as possible, and who knock directly on their door.

However, things are going to change. The publication of Dead Aid a few years ago was a first sign. The economic crisis in the West, that brings new ways of thinking not just about the western world itself but also about ‘the way things are done’ in relation to the rest of the world, is a second sign. And for everybody who is travelling in Malawi, subtile notions are there that the acceptance of whites will not be so big any more in the years to come – like it happened in other southern African countries already; that is a third sign.

The situation in Malawi is absolutely an example of Dead Aid; may it also become an example of the solutions that Dambisa Moyo has proposed in her book, at a short term notice…

Other blogs about this theme:
Aid for orphans in Malawi
Millennium village
Pigs, kids and why it works in Malawi
Self help Africa

Stage fever is an English invention

stage fever  Stage fever is an English invention: that is what people say in Nigeria, where performing in front of others is not the same dilemma as in many places in the ‘western’ part of the world. It is the same here in Malawi. Yesterday I spent some time at a youth meeting in the compound of Stephanos, close to Blantyre in the south of the country. Stephanos has many projects for health, agriculture and so on, and also an orphanage where many children get education at primary and secondary school level. On Sundays, they come together for Bible study and singing and they love it. Groups of young people stand in front of the group as a whole at the first invitation they get: happy to sing, without any stage fever. They simply don’t care, they are not busy with the thoughts of others (‘what they might think about me’) with the music itself.
They are spontaneous and very talented. Their sound has a good volume, because the absence of stage fever gives the result that everybody is singing full heartedly and not like in the Netherlands with their mouth half closed because of shame or whatever other reason that is withholding them. And it is maximum melodious, with tunes that are different from western or Asian music, so that we can recognize them immediately as African melodies.
(photos or video about this performance will be uploaded as soon as Malawi internet connections work better than right now…)

More blogs about Stephanos:
Pigs, kids and why it works in Malawi
Seba culture and diversity workshops in Malawi

More blogs about the culture of Malawi:
President in the warm heart of Africa
When inclusiveness met apartheid