Our village, Sangilo, recently conducted a community-led Project Assessment and Planning meeting to focus on the development goals the village has for itself from the grass-roots level. The meeting was facilitated by the Group Village Head Chief Mtowelayifwa with assistance from Determined to Develop staff members. It was attended by four village head chiefs, several village groups, and committee leaders. Representatives on behalf of the Village Development Committee, the Health and Sanitation Committee, the Child Protection Committee, the Forestry Committee, the Office of Social Welfare, the Safe Motherhood Group, multiple mother groups and the Goat Club were all present. In total, there were 50 people, half men and half women, who participated.
The meeting was a deliberation process of all community members through a participatory approach. Using this approach, everyone first brainstormed the major challenges that were facing the local community. Some of the challenges included primary school dropout rates, poor school attendance overall, the issue of polygamy, early marriages and pregnancies, deforestation, lack of electricity, hunger, poor infrastructure and a lack of support for the elderly. After the challenges were identified, the question of “What keeps us from developing?” was proposed and discussed. Several individuals mentioned a lack of ownership over different projects on behalf of the community, while others brought up the lack of women in positions of power as still being an issue to development efforts.
To start combatting some of the issues, the group then brainstormed and listed community assets which already exist and presented opportunities to reduce the severity of these challenges. Some of the main assets included the abundance of land in the area, the hardworking and kindhearted spirit of the local people, a strong presence of community police, the connection shared with D2D, access to health centres and growing access to schools, especially with the recent addition of Wasambo Boys High School, Lake Malawi, good local leadership in terms of chiefs and committee leaders, and the rice scheme which is present in the surrounding villages. After the list of assets was established, the group started to create a preliminary action plan by proposing solutions to the challenges. The solutions were grouped into four strategic categories: establishing community mobilization, linking with external partners, conducting civic education, and implementing community by-laws and rules to deter negative behaviors.
The new action plan serves as a foundation for proper project identification, implementation and evaluation within the community. In the week following the Project Assessment and Planning Meeting, an open, public meeting was held for the whole village of several thousand people to inform and include the rest of the community in the implementation process of the proposed action plan. During this time, the projects were prioritized based on need and a formal plan was created. D2D staff members again helped in facilitating this meeting. The organization will continue to be involved as the community strives to accomplish the different projects and move forward with local development initiatives. At the end of the process, D2D’s community liaison officer, Zikka Mkandawire, expressed how thankful the chief was for a job well done. He felt everyone involved really learned a lot and is excited to see the work unfold on behalf of the community with D2D’s guidance and assistance.