It had been four years since Cuthbert last worked with the people of Kamkwere in Central Malawi. As he set out to visit the village again, he didn’t know what he would find there. Would the villagers have continued the work they started with him? As a Church Mobilisation Coordinator for Eagles, a Tearfund partner, he wanted to find out and put the sustainability of their work to the test.
Still going strong
On arrival, Cuthbert was pleased to find they were still growing diverse crops that helped provide food all year round. They were still making organic fertiliser for their crops out of local materials and planting trees to improve the environment. They were also still using participatory drama to encourage discussion around sensitive issues such as sexual violence and stigma against those living with HIV. They use the drama to engage their audience and challenge their thinking by asking them to decide the characters’ next moves. Finally, they facilitate the gathering so everyone can agree on an action plan to address the issues they have raised together.
Watch a short video to see how church and community mobilisation helps villagers to take responsibility for their own projects in Malawi.
Even more impressively, though, the community had widened and developed their work. Over four years, they had identified other issues and taken action. Cuthbert discovered that a year ago the village began its biggest project to date: tackling the increasing effects of climate change.
Raphael, one of the facilitators trained by Eagles in church and community mobilisation, explained: ‘We saw that rainfall was now unpredictable and lack of rain affected the availability of food in our village. So the community met together to discuss ideas. We decided to dig a pool to catch rainwater. Now, even if the rains fail, we can still water our crops and have a harvest.’
Together they built a water tank in the ground that is slightly bigger than a tennis court. It measures 21m by 16m and is 2m deep. As a result, they can irrigate land throughout the whole year, so their crops are doing well. And so are the animals. No one goes hungry anymore. And their plans continue.
In fact, Raphael says: ‘We are now planning to expand the tank and bring in fish to provide added income.’
He adds: ‘What has kept us going up to now is the encouragement we had from Eagles in the first place. They told us: “You are facilitators, you can do this just as well as me”. This kept repeating in our minds, even when the initial project ended. So we continued working even in the absence of Eagles.’
‘I had no idea it had such an impact,’ says Cuthbert. ‘This is so encouraging for me, too, in my work!’
‘They told us: “You are facilitators, you can do this just as well”. So we continued working even in the absence of Eagles.’
Inspired to work together
In fact, Raphael has a tip for other villages about how to successfully carry out a church and community mobilisation project and keep it going. He says: ‘Recruit more people and train them. When pastors leave, we envision and train other pastors. Even when communities move, we mobilise other people. This has enabled us to keep going.’
It’s important, too, that when you start out, the work is rooted in integral mission. What we learnt during training has helped to motivate us and guide the growth of this work, adds Raphael. ‘The church taught us to work together without segregation and to care about the needs of those who are less privileged. This helps to ensure the lives of everyone in our community are improved. The church also taught us to love one another and that is what keeps us working together. We also learnt that work is a blessing, that we are created to work, and we should not just waste this opportunity.’
Footsteps 110 focuses on strategies farmers can use to maintain healthy ecosystems and productive farms.