When Group Village Heads (GVHs) M’madi Msosa and Chembe instructed their subjects to assemble at the chief’s headquarters to welcome officials from the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) to be briefed about a gender project it wants to embark on in their areas, the communities felt that was a rare opportunity to voice out their problems.
CCJP, Mangochi Diocese in conjunction with Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) is implementing a three-year gender project in the area, with the tune of about MK189, aims at addressing environmental problems that culminate in sedimentation in the Shire River Basin and chokes the performance of ESCOM’s hydro-power facilities.
The project seeks to increase hydro-power generation by way of empowering communities especially women through different initiatives.
Among the initiatives, CCJP wants to economically empower women through business & marketing skills, engaging men and women in joint decision making to ensure sustainable management of natural resources, capacitate women in leadership position and improve their literacy levels.
Agnes James, 57, from M’madi Msosa Village said levels of poverty in the area have reached at an alarming rate because people were not empowered with skills and knowledge on how to run small-scale businesses, conservation agriculture and saving schemes.
“Because we were not given the technical know-how the end result is that communities have resorted to natural forests,” she asserted.
James felt the coming in of the project would change the communities from the depleting world to restoring world.
“We are the contributing factor to environmental degradation. This is so because our situation forces us to deplete environment as we cut down trees for sale, burn charcoal, among other serious environmental threats. Therefore, we feel this will be put to a halt now with the coming in of the project,” she explained.
Saidi Yusufu, 36, another community member from Chembe Village also could not hide his excitement with CCJP for the project, saying while it helps to conserve the environment, the project would also help them learn better farming skills thereby empowering them to be food secure.
“In all fairness, the project would empower us economically and reduce our levels of poverty and this will go along way as it certainly reduces pressure on the environment,” he enthused.
CCJP Diocesan Secretary for Mangochi, Bruno Banda said the project wants to contribute towards addressing social and gender constraints and inequalities in communities along the Upper Shire River that prevents sustainable agriculture practices and sustainable management of natural resources.
“CCJP is geared to change the plight of communities of Lingamasa. The project expects that by 2018, at least 85% of women from T/A Chowe are able to take full responsibility of caring for the environmental resources since they will be empowered socially and economically through trainings on leadership skills and also by promoting the culture of village savings and loans,” he assured.
Banda further outlined that CCJP will improve adult literacy levels for the impact area to 75%, saying his organization believes that when adults are able to read and write, it becomes easy to understand
concepts such as budgets, hence, leads to improved livelihood.