Saturday, July 26, 2014

Children's Brighter Future Initiative in Malawi AMAZING!

I am amazed at what is happening with Children's Brighter Future Initiative (CBFI) in Malawi. Even though I have seen it unfolding, I still have a hard time comprehending the incredible results that they are achieving. This post will hit a few of the highlights of the program and may be one of several posts detailing this program.

A little over a year ago, the CBFI staff met with a small group of Agriculture Extension Development Officers (AEDOs) to explain their program and teach them the basic principles that they would teach the farmers in the rural villages. This group met at the School of Agriculture for Family Independence (SAFI) near Madisi, Malawi. For a week the SAFI staff and the CBFI staff trained the AEDOs on basic nutrition and sequential gardens. The training went very well and the AEDOs left with enthusiasm for this new program for teaching and inspiring the farm families in their districts.
Alan Silva doing additional training with CBFI and SAFI staff
The plan was very simple, each AEDO would select four lead farmers in their district to train. These lead farmers would then select ten follower farmers that they would teach and mentor. The incentive to this program was that CBFI would provide vegetable seeds to these farmers. The key to the program was that the seeds would only be provided after the farmer families had constructed raised beds with a mixture of mulch, manure, and soil. In addition, these families were expected to pay back with seeds or produce from their harvest and to teach their neighbors what they were learning. In other words, work first and the reward will come later. Most of the farm families approached were excited about the program, but a few of them declined to join the program, citing that other NGOs (non government organizations or charitable organizations) gave to them without requiring work on their part. Requiring work first was a core principle of this program.

A few months after the training took place, I had the extreme pleasure of visiting several of these families. I was amazed at their gardens. The farmers were so excited to show off what THEY had accomplished. Their families were now eating vegetables on a regular basis, they had surplus to sell, school fees were able to be paid for their children and they were anxious to learn module two.
This family enjoys a bouteous harvest from thier garden

What affect does this have on these farm families? Before the program their families consumed very few vegetables. They didn't understand the importance of eating them and they didn't have money to buy them. The AEDOs estimated that the few vegetables that they did buy would cost the families at least 100 kwacha /per week. A daily laborer can earn about 300 kwacha/day when work is available. Malnutrition and sickness were ubiquitous in these families.
Husbands and wives are taught the basic CBFI program

The AEDOs reported that the value of vegetables consumed and sold by these families is 200 kwacha/day. This changes the families financial position on vegetables from paying 100 kwacha/week to receiving 200 kwacha/day. This is a difference of 1500 kwacha/week or 78,000 kwacha/year! The health of their children has improved dramatically having a ripple effect on the community, local clinics, and government medical programs. The community has benefited by having more vegetables available for purchase and consumption. Neighbors are learning how to raise vegetables and receive seeds from the target families. The far reaching effects of this program are impossible to measure, but are extremely significant.

Maybe the most important harvest of this program has been the boost in self confidence that these families have developed. They now see themselves as agents to lift themselves out of poverty. They have also developed a trust in the AEDOs and CBFI that has allowed further miracles to happen with modules two and three. 

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