Project Builds Communities' Capacity
Andrea Lingisi, his wife Aggrey and family travelled all the way from Mangochi district to start a new life in Neno district in August last year. His son had found them a piece of land to settle at Mateyu village, Traditional Authority (TA) Dambe to be close to them.
Although the village is not easy to reach due to the bad road and hilly topography, Andrea and his wife journeyed with a belief that there is always light at the end of every tunnel.
They defied the hills and bumpy roads. Finally, they arrived in the village located kilometers away from neighboring Mozambique.
At 67 years, Andrea relies on piece works to fend for his wife, three children and four grandchildren. Two of the children go to school.
When life seemed to restart for the family after their arrival in August, 2022, the unexpected happened in September the same year. His house caught fire, a development which his wife, Aggrey, says was painful being new in the area.
“My husband was renovating the house so we just saw one of our sons rushing into the house and took out the child who was sleeping. I asked him why he was taking the child outside, he said his friend has set the house on fire.
“The fire raged and engulfed the whole house. We failed to put it off. The fire began in the kitchen and spread to the main house which was razed down to zero,” she said.
Aggrey says everything in the house was burnt down. Beddings, clothes and food are some of the possessions that got burnt.
“We managed to rescue a few things such as a bag of maize. I cannot value the loss. It was painful being new in the area. I didn’t know what to do,” said Aggrey.
The bad news spread in the village. When they thought that everything was over, members of the community came to their rescue, to their surprise.
“Our chief and community members supported us with some cash and a bag of maize for relief. They also helped us to renovate the house using the materials which they also provided. They came the next morning to help. We breathed a sigh of relief. We never expected this,” she said.
Chairperson of the area’s civil protection committee, Enock Mpindeni, says it is now a norm in the community to support members who have suffered a disaster.
Mpindeni says through the localization project which is being implemented in the district by the Beyond Our Hearts Foundation, they were trained not to wait for external response when disaster strikes.
“This is one of the instances where members of the communities have come in to support households that have survived a disaster,” he said.
He added that the project component is very important in his area which he says has been devastated by the disasters for a long time.
“This area has over 5, 000 households that are prone to natural disasters. About 4, 000 households were affected by Tropical Storm Ana whilst Cyclone Gombe affected about 2, 000 households. About 3, 000 households were affected by hunger triggered by the cyclones.
“Crops were washed away. It was difficult for the people to bring their lives back. We were heavily hit because we lacked capacity in disaster preparedness and response. All we knew was to wait for external support,” he said.
However, Mpindeni says the situation is no longer the same; thanks to the project.
“The localization project has empowered us with capacity building. We now know how well to prepare and respond to natural disasters. We now know about emergency preparedness and contingency plans.
“For example, prior to 2022 – 2023 rainy season, we planned on how well to prepare for disasters that hit us frequently by following the early warning signs. We opened a Whatsapp group where almost every member of the committee is a member,” he said.
Through the Whatsapp group, Mpindeni says daily and seasonal weather updates are disseminated for use.
“These are the fruits of the trainings that we have received from the localization project. We have also been trained on making assessment when disasters hit. We now make very effective assessments which help those affected to get the needed support,” he said.
The ACPC chairperson only fears that the worst could have happened following the Cyclone Freddy had it been they did not prepare well.
“We warned the community members to prepare well for the cyclone. Those whose houses were not strong reinforced them. Those who were living in flood prone areas moved to safer grounds. Farming households also followed climate smart farming technologies and they will harvest this year. Their farms have been spared by Cyclone Freddy,” said Mpindeni.
TA Dambe commended the project for saving his subjects from what he says could have been fatal disaster orchestrated by Cyclone Freddy.
“To be a chief I need people. You cannot be a leader without the people. If people are suffering, there cannot be development. This projected has made me a leader because I have the followers,” he said.
Beyond Our Hearts Executive Director, Russel Msiska, says they are happy that the project has achieved what it intended to achieve.
“It is now the community doing the assessment when disaster strikes and response comes within 24 hours. The district council is there just to support. We are saving more money through that and that is what the project wanted to achieve,” he said.
Save the Children Italy funded the localization project which started in May 2022 to strengthen the institutional capacity of government structures and civil society in Zomba and Neno districts.
This was to prevent emergencies and respond effectively during humanitarian response.