Reflections on the Southern African Hub Meeting: Blantyre, Malawi

***Cross-posted from SDI Blog***

By: Mariana Gallo, Knowledge Management Officer CCODE; Nico Keijzer, LME Officer Southern Africa SDI; & Noah Schermbrucker, Projects Officer SDI 

The recent regional hub meeting for Southern Africa took place in Blantyre, Malawi, from 28-31st March 2015. It was the first time that Blanytre or Malawi have hosted a regional hub meeting and provided an opportunity for the Malawian alliance to showcase their work. Participants from South Africa, Namibia, Zambia, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe attended the meeting. Botswana was invited but not able to attend.

Country Reports and Field Visits

The day commenced with each country reporting on their key indicators using the new Learning, Monitoring, and Evaluation (LME) reporting format. All countries concurred that this format assisted them in measuring progress, setting realistic targets, identifying challenges, and more targeted learning to overcome them. For the first time the hub was able to produce accurate totals for Southern Africa – as illustrated in the below table.

Southern African Hub Totals
Baseline Target Achieved Total
Members  161 961,00  8 765,00  7 084,00  169 045,00
Savings Groups 2490 300 217 2707
Daily Savings  4 354 901,00  829 755,00  287 494,00  4 642 395,00
UPF Savings  1 960 417,00  210 099,00  127 794,00  2 088 211,00
         
Settlement Profiles 1553 445 316 1869
City-wide profiles 123 32 3 126
Enumerations 294 50 47 341
Maps – GIS 109 306 207 316
Maps – Hand drawn 15 24 10 25

A variety of field visits also took place. Those who visited Nancholi settlement learnt about the slum upgrading activities that were being undertaken by the federation. Work included the construction of bridges, the development of an agricultural market, the renovation of a local clinic, and the construction of additional blocks for the local secondary school. Other delegates visited a variety of groups who were involved in income generation projects. One group called “Waste for Wealth” produces and sells compost. Another group makes sausages that they package and sell, while a third group makes and sells tie-dye clothes.

The group producing compost manure in Chilomani, explaining their experience with the enterprise.

The group producing compost manure in Chilomani, explaining their experience with the enterprise.

City Council and Discussions on Country Projects

On the third day, hub delegates visited the Blantyre City Council for a meeting with the Mayor, the Director of Planning and Development for Blantyre, and other officials. While the meeting illustrated the successful partnership between the Malawian Alliance and the Blantyre City Council (BCC) it became clear, through the lively discussions that took place, that these types of partnerships need to be underpinned by material commitments from government (e.g. land, budgetary allocations for slum upgrading). The international delegation pushed the BCC around its previous commitments to establish a citywide slum-upgrading fund. The Malawian federation needs to follow up on the space opened by this discussion.

The meeting attracted media attention, and was reported on the front page of one of the main newspapers on the following day.

Hub participants attending a meeting with the Blantyre City Council.

Hub participants attending a meeting with the Blantyre City Council.

The afternoon’s sessions provided an opportunity for delegates to reflect more deeply on their LME process. Not only in terms of challenges identified but feasible actions to address these issues. Below is an example of this work that the hub collectively committed to implementing over the next period. Outcomes will be reported at the next hub meeting.

Challenges:

1) Unrealistic targets,

2) Understanding of enumerations process or profiling is difficult,

3) Not having a system of reporting,

4) Politics delays the process,

5) Working with other stakeholders is always difficult and can delay the whole process,

6) Changing the mindset of people who expect a lot of money as some organisation does,

7) Slow implementation of projects,

8) Not practicing daily savings.

Possible Solutions:

1)     Setting of realistic targets within a specific period of time,

2)     Drawing of process maps – steps involved in saving, profiling, enumeration etc.,

3)     Mobilizing communities on why they are doing the profiling, enumeration etc.,

4)     Having standard reporting templates/systems,

5)     Signing of MOU’s (exchange visits among municipal/local officials),

6)     Joint working groups that involves stakeholders,

7)     Communities must take ownership and drive the change in the community,

8)     Communities should have one voice in getting resources from local authorities,

9)     Going back to the roots of daily savings.  Take ownership of savings and how the money is managed to build confidence.

Data, Reflections on Donor Funding, Exchanges, and Closing

The final day commenced with a presentation on the data platform from the SDI Secretariat. Federations were able to access, discuss and interact with the online platform that stores their profiling information. This is part of a process to deepen federation ownership of the information collected.

An interesting and important discussion, which is central to the work of all federations and affiliates, then took place.  The crux if this discussion is that while it is recognised that donor funding is needed for activities, the agenda and priorities of donors can sometimes be in conflict with the federation’s core vision (e.g. building unaffordable housing on the periphery of the city).  Broken into country groups delegates discussed criteria for accepting donor funding. Flexibility, equal partnerships, common vision and inclusion of the poorest were amongst the common points of consideration.

The meeting closed with a collective reflection session that gave delegates an opportunity to assess the content and structure of the hub meeting.  More substantive details can be found in the hub report. The next hub meeting was set for September in Zimbabwe.

The Malawi Alliance prepares their data for sharing

The Malawi Alliance prepares their data for sharing

Malawi Federation members work with the online data platform.

Malawi Federation members work with the online data platform.

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