Translating knowledge and skills into action: Madisi entrepreneurs’ slow journey to livelihood resilience

In life sometimes, it takes others to help you see what you need before you can do anything about it. It however does not stop there, you need to start taking initiative using the knowledge you have acquired so that you are able to change your sorry state and sustainably transform.

This was the thinking when CCODE introduced a skills and livelihood component in the 3rd phase of the program. The idea was that through diversification of income sources, project beneficiaries would improve their livelihoods while also addressing the key challenges or needs of their community.

As is the standard practice, before the actual technical skills training sessions commenced, a skills needs assessment was conducted   during the early stage. The aim of the assessment was to identify the key skills and entrepreneurship gaps that exist in the area.

CCODE therefore used the information collected in designing technical skills’ trainings. And following the needs assessment, trainings were designed and provided to various groups in Madisi.

A total of 14 savings members from Madisi section A, Madisi section B and Chandiwo section B underwent training in the production of Tie and Dye. Based on their location i.e. closer to markets and main road these were considered for the training. Ten months after the training was conducted, no group or member has been practicing the skills and generating income from the skill. When asked on the reasons why they are not into production, most trainees reported that they were waiting to harvest and sell some of their produce the money of which they would use to in Tie and Dye. Two months have elapsed since members harvested but no member has shown interest in venturing into the business.  

Considering that the project area is Agriculture oriented. I.e. that most people are subsistent farmers, CCODE with recommendations from key group leaders decided to undertake training in compost production. The idea was that the members would add to the fertilizer which however is a luxury to many due to their poor incomes. Of the 82 members who underwent the training, only 52%[1] of the people reported to have proceeded to have produced manure their field. Some beneficiaries decried the failure to acquire maize pericarps or other household waste for decomposing. During that time of the year, most households do not have enough maize for food and as a result they just process the maize flour without removing the pericarps. The only material they claim was readily available was tree leaves and animal dung. This therefore discouraged many for proceeding with the production

 Despite that people now have maize and income to buy enough food and somehow responsibly accumulate waste, project beneficiaries are not into compost production. Some beneficiaries have vegetable gardens in which they can apply compost in. To the contrary many say they will wait until the farming seasons are closing in.

 The challenge of poor sanitation and hygiene is evident by the sorry state of sanitation units, stench smell in the atmosphere due to open defecation and reports of diarrhea which mostly hitst children. To help improve the sanitation of these areas, 10 representatives from the 10 groups in Madisi were trained in the making of pit latrine slabs. The members were trained in different types of affordable and good quality slabs.  

The expectation was that through the production of the slabs, the members would improve their income. Most importantly, that the introducing slabs in the toilets, would improve the outlook, increase access to decent and affordable sanitation facilities and in the process, this will result in improved health among community.

Ten months later, only 3 members have reported to have ever invested resources   producing the slabs. Beneficiaries agree that Toilets in the settlements need to be improved but the people with the skill to help in this are doing nothing about.

So as it stands now, EEI project beneficiaries have not fully understood and embrace the opportunity to diversify their income for their livelihoods resilience. They are yet to fully understand and get uncomfortable about their poor economic state and embrace change through usage of new knowledge and skills acquired.  It is not easy since most beneficiaries are born and raised in farming. They still need to however rise above complacency and learn that income generation is a complex or diverse process and experience.

As a support NGO we will not slack. We will continue supporting the Madisi project beneficiaries with various knowledge and skills so that they have changed their mindset on sustainable personal and community transformation.

[1] Figure to be verified during final evaluation. This is based on monitoring meeting with groups.

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