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  • Christine Chumbler
    Dec 3, 2003
      Earnings Mushroom to Help Make Village Model in Malawi

      United Nations Development Programme (New York)

      December 1, 2003
      Posted to the web December 2, 2003

      New York

      As tobacco fails to light up, earnings, instead of taking a dive, have
      literally mushroomed in Ndawambe, 140 kilometres from Malawi's capital

      Such ventures as mushroom growing are enabling villagers, scraping by
      on a dollar a day not three years ago, to improve their livelihoods.

      With tobacco fast losing its position as the largest foreign exchange
      earner due to the worldwide anti-smoking campaign, the government is
      looking at mushrooms, for which there's heavy global demand, as an
      alternative. The local market is already brisk.

      "We are unable to meet demand for mushrooms from supermarkets in
      Lilongwe," said Monica Hara, vice chairperson of the group growing
      mushrooms, the most popular of such initiatives in Ndawambe. The success
      is making the village a model in overcoming rural poverty.

      "The demand for training in mushroom farming is growing, and we are
      getting groups of smallholder farmers," said Henry Mbedza, head of
      agricultural engineering at Bunda College of Agriculture, part of the
      University of Malawi.

      Professor Moses Kwapata, coordinator of the project, said: "There has
      been a growing awareness that mushrooms, apart from being a delicacy,
      have high protein value and medicinal properties."

      UNDP and the Japan International Cooperation Agency funded the
      programme, launched in collaboration with the University of Namibia as
      part of an environmentally friendly "zero emission research initiative."
      Mushroom growing helps conserve the environment since growers use waste
      matter from other crops, such as maize stalks.

      Ndawambe residents are gaining from training in this and other
      commercial activities, thanks to the Government's Sustainable
      Livelihoods Programme. The UN Capital Development Fund and UNDP support
      the government established District Development Fund in financing the
      training, provided by the National Small and Medium Enterprises

      Other partners in the initiative are the Malawi Industrial Research and
      Technology Development Centre, and the Malawi Entrepreneurship
      Development Institute.

      Nicholas Chiwaya Banda and his wife Expressia gave up money-losing work
      growing tobacco and are doing well raising chickens, with 900 hens
      producing 23 trays of eggs a day. They are building a two-storey,
      12-room home, a first for the village.

      Neighbours have increased their earnings by starting businesses such as
      fruit juice production, vegetable oil pressing, honey production,
      bakeries and fish farming.

      Mchinji, one of the 12 pilot districts in the national decentralization
      programme, plans to replicate Ndawambe's achievements in three more
      villages, according to Mchinji district chairperson Moses Kuchingale.

      The District Development Fund is providing support.

      Leoson Hara, Ndawambe village headman, said he is looking forward to
      day when the Government helps the groups operate as fully-fledged
      cooperative societies and links them up with lending institutions for
      loans to buy better equipment.

      "We have the capacity to produce almost everything from honey to
      tomatoes and onions, but we still need technical and financial
      assistance to become organized and effective," he said.

      For further information please contact or , UNDP Malawi, or , UNDP
      Communications Office.


      Malawi's Visually Impaired Want Aids Messages in Braille

      African Church Information Service

      December 1, 2003
      Posted to the web December 2, 2003

      Hobbs Gama

      Members of the visually impaired community in Malawi have decried
      discrimination against them in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and have
      called for access to information on matters concerning the pandemic.

      Executive Director for Malawi Union of the Blind (MUB), Kassim Gama,
      said here recently that the union recommends that HIV/AIDS awareness
      campaign messages be printed in Braille, for the blind to follow.

      He was speaking during the launch of Malawi youth wing of the Southern
      Africa Federation of the Disabled (SAFORD).

      "Besides being sidelined by their counterparts, blind young people are
      also marginalised on education, health and sport, which does not auger
      well for their future," Gama complained.

      His concerns were echoed by SAFORD President, Rachel Kachaje, who, in
      commending the formation of the youth wing within her organisation,
      said: "Most of the youth organisations have a wrong perception that the
      blind cannot contribute due to their disability, an attitude we are
      geared to fight."

      Earlier, the minister responsible for persons with disabilities docket,
      Susan Chitimbe, condemned men who culturally believe that having sex
      with disabled females can save them from HIV infection.

      "There is no single scientific proof of that, and I warn any men
      violating the rights of the disabled by taking advantage of their
      vulnerability," said Chitimbe.


      Wife-beating in Zambia a 'natural consequence'


      03 December 2003 11:37

      About 80% of Zambian wives find it acceptable to be beaten by their
      husbands "as a form of chastisement", according to the latest Zambia
      Demographic Health Survey.

      Out of 5 029 women interviewed countrywide, 79% said they should be
      beaten if they went out without their husband's permission. Sixty-one
      percent said a beating was acceptable if they denied their husbands sex,
      while 45% said a beating was in order if they cooked 'bad' food.

      Compounding the abuse was the culture of silence around domestic
      violence. "This is an aberration -- and women are making an abnormality
      normal," said National Aids Council director, Dr Alex Simwanza, when he
      recently met traditional leaders to urge their support in fighting
      gender-based violence.

      "Zambian wives are living in a sorry state. As far as they are
      concerned they can be beaten for almost anything. This is a frightening
      phenomenon," he noted.

      Simwanza said most of the women who took part in the survey did not
      believe they had sexual or reproductive rights. Quoting the survey, he
      said 88% of women felt their husbands could have sex with them just
      after giving birth, while 67% said they would have sex even though they
      did not want it.

      Simwanza blamed the submissive attitude uncovered in the poll on what
      is taught to girls during puberty rites.

      But custodians of tradition have refused to accept the blame. Gertrude
      Mulande, a traditional marriage counsellor, believes wife-beating is a
      "natural consequence" of male-female relationships and must be seen in
      perspective. She says there is 'chastisement' and 'violence' -- two
      separate issues.

      Her organisation, "alangizi", which is made up of traditional
      counsellors, works closely with community leaders and the police to
      sensitise women on domestic violence "within the confines of cultural

      "Yes we teach young girls to expect to be slapped or hit lightly when
      they err as a form of chastisement, and we also tell them to keep their
      marital problems within their family circles -- but we do not teach them
      to accept violent beatings, neither do we teach them to suffer in
      silence," said Mulande.

      Mulande said in the past women were married off at 16 years or even
      younger to an older man, who had the right to act as 'chastiser', but it
      was frowned upon for that to extend to a severe beating. Traditionally,
      if a woman was badly abused, the matter was taken to family elders and
      resolved, because men were counselled not to hit their wives as though
      they were fighting with another man.

      "The extended family has become extinct, causing women to air dirty
      linen in public, and chastisement has turned to brutality. That is not
      our fault," Mulande said.

      Mulande, whose husband had slapped her "a couple of times" during 30
      years of marriage, argued that although the statistics revealed that
      beatings were occurring, this should not be interpreted to mean women
      were being brutalised in their homes.

      One diplomat, based in the capital Lusaka, agreed. He said domestic
      fights were common in homes and, even as educated and enlightened as he
      was, admitted to "roughing up" his wife a couple of times in their 19
      years together. He did not know of any wife who could say she had never
      been slapped or beaten by her husband.

      "In the earlier years of marriage when we [men] are still immature, we
      tend to use force instead of reason, but a beating should never be so
      severe that that a wife runs away or reports you to the police," he
      said. A father of two daughters, he hopes they will have husbands who
      are not violent, but is certain that at one point "they will receive a

      This is the kind of perception that raises the ire of the national
      Women's Lobby group, who define violence as any form of force used
      against women.

      "Whether it is a weak slap on the cheek or a powerful fist in the face,
      it is still violence," explained lobby group member Juliet Chibuta.
      "There should be no so-called chastisement among equals. In these days
      of gender awareness and the fight against abuse, it is sad that women
      are still being subjected to outdated cultural norms."

      She added: "The fact that women are admitting that they expect to be
      beaten for perceived wrongs means we [the lobby] have a long way to go
      in sensitisation."

      Equally perturbed is President Levy Mwanawasa, who recently said the
      country needed to examine its cultural values that legitimised violence
      against women. "Any form of domestic violence is a violation human
      rights and should be stopped," he warned.

      Police spokesperson Brenda Mutemba said whether it was chastisement or
      beating, some women were suffering severe brutality. "We are receiving
      about five cases of wife battering a day. I cannot say whether it's an
      increase or just more cases being reported, but there is cause for

      There has been a heightened awareness of violence against women since
      the launch of the annual international campaign of 16 days of activism
      against gender violence, which kicked off on 25 November. The event is
      being observed by some 100 countries.

      Charles Lwiindi is among 50 members of the "men's travelling
      conference" who are heading to neighbouring Malawi by bus, making stops
      to talk about gender violence with communities on the way.

      Lwiindi, who has been married for 11 years, admitted he hit his wife
      once, but had never done so again. "You live with someone whom you know
      is physically weaker than you are, the temptation to impose your will or
      dominance by force is great. For many it is the first time they are in a
      position of strength in all their adult life," he said. - Irin


      Mugabe moots alliance with China

      Harare, Zimbabwe

      02 December 2003 17:36

      Zimbabwe will support China as an alternative world power, President
      Robert Mugabe declared on Tuesday as his country faced an uncertain
      future within the Commonwealth.

      Mugabe, who was delivering a state-of-the-nation address to Parliament,
      said China is increasingly becoming "an alternative global power point"
      indicating "a new alternative direction, which in fact could be the
      foundation of a new global paradigm".

      "Zimbabwe must work for this new paradigm, which is founded on
      principles of sovereignty and independence," he declared.

      On Friday last week Mugabe indicated that Zimbabwe was ready to quit
      the Commonwealth after he was left out of this week's Commonwealth Heads
      of Government Meeting (Chogm) in Nigeria.

      On Tuesday he attacked the current "unipolar order".

      "We abhor the global high-handedness of the strong and powerful," he

      "We abhor unilateral interference in the internal political affairs of
      other countries, especially smaller states," said Mugabe, whose country
      was last year suspended from the Commonweath councils for alleged
      electoral fraud and rights abuses.

      "Recent events in Iraq have clearly shown that a unipolar order that
      presently governs international relations is both unjust and
      unsustainable. It is a source of conflict, and even of war," he warned.

      "Our continued membership of the Commonwealth ... is dependent on this
      fundamental consideration, currently being vitiated by Britain,
      Australia and New Zealand -- the Anglo-Saxon unholy alliance against
      Zimbabwe," he said.

      Mugabe gave the 30-minute address as the country was struggling to cope
      with a deep economic crisis characterised by hyperinflation, poverty,
      70% unemployment levels and shortages of most basic goods and services.
      -- Sapa-AFP
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