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When officials tasked to distribute goats to vulnerable households in Traditional Authority (T/A) Chilooko in Ntchisi District gave Rodrick Chinsolo only MK10,000 for the fifth goat, he had to find, in his crunching poverty, an extra MK5,000 to get the animal into his kraal.

Chinsolo, from Chapulumuka Village, was supposed to benefit from a goats pass-on programme without coughing out a dime. That had been the initial arrangement; vulnerable households had been included in the national budget and the funds had been properly appropriated.

He describes the treatment he receives: from agriculture officials who were distributing goats as unfair.

“They took advantage of the fact that I was supposed to be very grateful and, therefore, not question their decision that I should get MK10,000 instead of a goat which must have been fully paid for in the arrangement,” he says.

He and his wife have mobility challenges and their disabilitywas the primary reason they were included on the list of vulnerable households under the Malawi Drought Recovery and Resilience Project (MDRRP) introduced in Ntchisi to uplift the lives of those affected by the natural disaster.

Chinsolo, like other beneficiaries of the goat pass-on project, further claims that they were not trained in kraal creation and food production for their livestock and that the goats are reared on free range, implying that they do not get food supplements of any kind.

“I am still grateful that I benefitted from the goat pass-on project. I take the challenges that I initially countered as minimal and now that I know what to do in such scenarios, that is whatmatters most,” he says.

A project Centre for Multiparty Democracy (CMD) is implementing in the Central Region district has opened the eyes of locals here who are now able to demand justice and accountability in various initiatives including the pass-on project and the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp).

CMD Programme Officer, Cydrick Damala, posits that, in the case of the goats pass-on project, there should be proper coordination mechanisms for beneficiaries to have a sense of ownership and for transparency to thrive.

“During our recent meetings at Political Party Forum [PPF], the structure that we use to track projects, and Ntchisi District Council Agriculture Service Committee, it came out clearly that more vulnerable people and others like women are now able to benefit from public initiatives,” he says.

Damala adds that Women Action Groups (Wags) and PPFs working in T/As Chilooko and Kalumo in Ntchisi and Chikulamayembe and Mwanunkhira in Rumphi have proved crucial in buttressing the rights of women and households that were once constant victims of discrimination and segregation.

“Since the project inception in 2016, interventions by these structures have reached out to approximately 1,600 households in Ntchisi with interventions on land disputes, especially those seeking to allocate land to women, corruption in (Agricultural

Development and Marketing

Corporation (Admarc) markets and unfair selection of beneficiaries in programmes like Fisp,” Damala says.

To strengthen accessibility and accountability for agriculture resources, the project works with district agriculture committees.

It has further resulted in more women owning and having control over land and, in some cases, women have been issued with land documents.

“There is also increased accountability in the allocation and distribution of agriculture resources such that more women are benefitting from winter irrigation inputs,” Damala says.

Recent tours of project sites also laid bare the satisfaction and confidence in targeted households that wish their eyes had been opened earlier.

PPF Chairperson, Aman Banda, says in Ntchisi, women have been subjected to various forms of discrimination perpetuated by authorities who were supposed to be at the forefront in promoting equity and equality.

He reckons that single mothers—widows and divorcees—often find themselves at the receiving end of bad acts and decisions where they could not benefit from public initiatives like Fisp.

“Some even have had their pieces of land grabbed from them after, for instance, their husbands die or divorce them. In other cases, in the patrilineal setup, women who return to their fathers’ homes after their marriages end are left without pieces of land,” he says.

On the other hand, Banda notes that there has been some improvement as most people are aware of their rights and ask important questions where they feel such rights are being abused.

This is echoed by Ntchisi District Council Chairperson, Phillip Tsogolani, who marvels at the resistance that women are now able to put forward against those who try to segregate them.

“Things are really improving even though there are gaps here and there which need government policy direction. For instance, farmers, including women, continue to be short-changed by vendors because government markets open too late,” he says.

He hopes that, the Dan Church Aid-funded project will be taken to other areas where vulnerable people, including women, continue to suffer at the hands of individuals and systems that disfavour them.

 

The Daily Times, September 20, 2018

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