Whew… It’s been a long month.
I’m starting to feel a bit like a broken record, always talking about how busy I am. I don’t say complaining, because I enjoy the work, having things to do, and feeling productive. I guess being busy is just part of working for a small, fast-growing non-profit.
However I will say that the past few weeks have been particularly busy. First, I’ve been preparing to head home for a month (!) for the holidays. That’s been a lot of just getting things in order and making sure everything gets done before I leave. We also celebrated Thanksgiving with a big potluck feast with all our interns and staff.
Probably more importantly, we’ve been preparing for a visit from our project partners from Scotland. These project partners, Grant and Charlie, handle the Scottish end of our largest grant, the JANEEMO project. Now you may be asking what the heck a JANEEMO is – well it’s short for jatropha, neem, and moringa, three very different trees that make up the core of this agroforestry-based project. Since becoming the implementing partner in March, Kusamala has steered the project away from focusing so heavily on just three trees by introducing other agroforestry species and integrating permaculture principles into the training and implementation of the project.
You may also be asking why my whole month has gotten crazy simply because these two Scottish blokes (yes, they’ve even infiltrated my vocabulary!) came into town. Quite simply it’s because I recently took over the in-country management of the project. This has been very exciting for me professionally, as it’s a large project and will give me some very valuable experience, and personally, as I get to influence a potentially very impactful project.
Through this project we are working with a number of rural villages in the Dowa District of Central Malawi, about an hour and a half north of Malawi. Currently we are working with about ten village clubs to plant moringa, jatropha, faidherbia albida, acacia species, and various fruit trees. Currently, the clubs have over 25,000 trees in their nurseries, waiting for the rains to be out planted in their fields and around their homes. Additionally, our village coordinator will spend the next few months teaching clubs about growing food crops around their homes to increase their diet diversity.
And all of this, in addition to our own large tree nursery at the centre, is being funded by the Scottish government; hence our partners in Scotland coming for a visit. While our prep for their visit started weeks ago, they arrived ten days ago. Luckily they turned out to be a couple of very nice, easy going guys who we enjoyed getting to know, as we spent quite a lot of time with them!
In addition to a number of meetings they had with different NGOs and government officials, they also had a couple of days in the communities in Dowa (check out this and this blog post for more on that). We all came away from the community visits inspired and energized. In particular it reminded me how easy it is to forget the real people and communities on the ground when you spend too much time caught up in the details in the office – and how I need to make every effort not to!
Coming off the high of the community enthusiasm, we spent this past weekend developing a new project and going through the tedious process of writing a logframe for a 3-year, GBP 400,000 grant from the Scottish government. This new grant will be structured similarly to the JANEEMO project, but expanded to more communities throughout Dowa. The new project, should we get the funding, will focus on “Climate Smart Agriculture.” Very basically, we define that as improved household nutrition, income stability, and staple production through increased agroforestry, crop diversification, and water management.
While a hectic and busy few weeks, the end has been well worth it. Our partners left impressed with the work we’ve done so far and excited at the prospect of continuing the partnership with another grant. And I am now ready to head home on Friday (!!!) feeling very content with my decision to return.