When I started this project I was warned that the local people often only come to workshops and trainings if they receive money and materials. And that they would not be interested in information and training. After listening to these kinds of stories I was a bit worried about my project. Since the WATERS project is all about information sharing and capacity building, and not about giving away money and materials. But the past few months proved the opposite to me. The local people I am working with are amazing. They are coming to every workshop I organize. They listen, discuss, take notes and ask for more
information. Back in their own villages they pass on the lessons learned to their village members and even write small reports about these gatherings to me. The reports are handwritten and in Chichewa of course, so I need a translator to read them. But the fact they pass on the message to each other is so valuable. It shows to me that they are serious about the project and eager to learn.
The subject we handled during the workshops so far were about climate change, environmental issues, cause and effect, cooperation and the importance of having a balanced ecosystem to reduce climate related hazards. In the future we are planning to continue these subjects and add workshops on taking care of trees and the writing of management plans.
Because I was able to save some of my budget, I decided to use this a bit different than I did all the former workshops. In Nsanje, deforestation is a big problem, and the committees I’m working with have a huge responsibility to fight this. But they barely have proper materials or funding to achieve this. I decided to help them out a bit with some much needed materials. My first approach turned out to be a bit of a disappointment to me. I invited the committees for a meeting and asked them for what purpose they wanted to use the money. Positive outcome was that they all immediately agreed to spend the money to strengthen their tree nurseries. But after that the meeting turned out to be a wakeup call for me. The committees are not used to create plans together and after 2 workshops talking about cooperation they obviously were not ready to take it to this level yet. I was moving to fast for them. At the end of the meeting they had a plan which would cost me 2 million Kwacha (total budget being 300.000, about 900 US dollar). Instead of deciding on basis of priority or current resources of the committees, they all wanted to have exactly the same, no matter what their individual targets were. I was disappointed, but my colleagues assured me that this was already a huge step for them. Still it made me realize how much work there is to be done and what a huge change of mind set is necessary to make this work.
Eventually my colleague Mr Mwafumu and I spend a day on our motorbikes to make an inventory of all the 14 tree nurseries in my catchment area. What were there targets, which materials do they already have and how many people were active in the committee? With the results of this inventory we decided to buy them basic material like water cans, pails and rakes depending on the targets and available resources of each committee. On the 29th of June we organized another workshop on managing tree nurseries. At the end of the workshop we distributed the materials to the local committees. With these materials, some coaching of the District Council and the enthusiasm of the local committees we can now grow 115.000 trees. These trees will be used for the reforestation of my project area, the Nyamadzere River. This is one of the most vulnerable area’s to flash floods and soil erosion. The planting of trees will be just after the start of the raining season in October/November. And with a little bit of help the committees can use the materials to grow even more trees coming year.