Hi! My name is Ana Coutinho. I’m from Brazil. I’m a participant at IICD Michigan and now I’m in Malawi working with Humana People to People. I dreamt with this moment and I had a lot of expectations to start the work with this people that I meet now. I was at a time looking for new challenges and had a great desire to continue the volunteer work helping others. With the support of a friend, I could know about IICD Michigan. I saw pictures and I was so dazzled of the site that I decided to join. Now, in the third period in Africa, I remember what my friend said to me: "This work is on your face too." That’s truth now.
I live in Dowa and I work together with Chaehwa from South Korea and Toshiki from Japan, our projects is Farmers’ Club. This district is more than one hour to reach Lilongwe, the capital city of Malawi. Dowa is a small city, a little bit more than 671,075 people, (number from Agriculture Department), it has one Hospital, one Primary School, two main streets, one Library, one Post Office, one Police Department, one Agriculture Department, one Electricity Department, one Water Department, some churches, a big market and small streets. We started moving around to see member’s of the clubs, to make friends and interview them about their lives and families, their work and what they are doing to improve their lives. We meet people very friendly and special.
Development Aid from People to People (DAPP) in Malawi started the first Farmers Clubs in 2006 in Lilongwe, Chiradzulu and Zomba districts. The Government of Malawi has invested extensively in creating food security with small-scale farmers at the centre of the strategy. Different methods are taken to use along the implementation of the desired results. The structure of the Farmers Clubs program is to organize 200 to 250 farmers and give them a project leader from DAPP. The project leader is to be a teacher and to solve problems together with the members, while building a culture community life. The project leader visits each farmers field, takes actions, mobilize for campaigns, makes demonstration plots, organize in common about buying and selling, held common meetings with presentations and teaches these for three years.
In Dowa, we work with six project leaders. Each project has 5 clubs and 250 farmers. Each club select a committee of 5 members who are responsible for solving the daily affairs of the clubs. Knowledge can be given in many ways. A teacher has always to decide which methods will be the best. The demand to a project leader is to prepare excellent lessons and to be an excellent teacher when presenting the lesson. The project leader lives in the area of operation, he has a motorbike or a bicycle and moves around from farmers to farmers.
Our farmers involved themselves to increased the production of cereals, vegetables and domestic animals; to take action together to prevent malaria and improve sanitation through use of clean water and to build latrines and stoves. They have a simple life, their house has building only for sleeping and small place for living room, their kitchen,toilet and bathroom are outside. Some of them have a bed, chairs and a battery radio.
Once in the field I saw solar panels in one house, they use it to do business like charging cellphones and saloon beard. I also observe that malawian women are about to get married and start her family at 16 years old. Most of women go to working with their husband to their farm, they work hard under the sun the whole day while the children are in the school.
The first word I heard from a child in Africa is “Azungu” (white person) and sometimes that child cries a lot when he sees me. Someone said to me is because they never saw white people before. To be in Malawi is the same I dreamt with, people is as friendly as I expected. I feel at home with good food, good weather, good music and people like in Brazil. The most important feeling I have now is the comfort to work hard. These first months in Malawi we were collecting information about people’s life and for them to make their plans and solutions for some problems we saw. Now this is a time to put in practice our ideas.