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By Rev Lloyd Chizenga, Southern Malawi
One of APF’s projects that has been paused due to coronavirus lockdown restrictions on gatherings is the Growing Greener agriculture project run by New Life Christian Church in Malawi. Revd Lloyd Chizenga reports on how the church network was responding.
What is happening in Malawi with Covid-19? As a church we are currently on a sensitisation tour, teaching the communities on how people can get the virus and how to avoid getting the virus. There is a lot of misinformation about, especially in the remote areas, and the government is being supported by NGOs [Non-Governmental Organisations] and churches like ours to keep people informed. We are busy bringing awareness messages to rural communities about Covid-19.
Apparently, about 80 people have been found positive in Malawi. Twenty-four have recovered and three patients have died. The government tried to impose a national lockdown, but it did not work well because most of the people are poor. We live hand-to-mouth and there were no plans to help people financially so they could stay at home without starving. As you may be aware, around 85% of the population lives in the rural areas so they must continue farming, buying and selling food.
Besides the impact of Covid-19 on our livelihoods, it has also affected us morally, physically and spiritually. We have a sense that some of our cultural tendencies have to be stopped. This includes having to follow social distancing guidelines and keeping at least a meter apart from others. We have been told we must avoid hand shaking and instead hand wash frequently with soap or sanitiser. There is also a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people. All these are new things in the Malawian setting. We are used to meeting in our hundreds even in rural communities. Our government has been less strict than many others in Africa but they are now saying we should wear a mask.
In terms of the ‘Growing Greener’ sustainable agriculture project we have been running with support from APF and Operation Agri, Covid-19 has had an impact. Since we can only meet with 50 people and not more than that, we have had to pause meetings and training sessions with project beneficiaries. Our community groups normally have around 120 people in them so training must be reduced.
We will pick up where we left off as soon as we are able. One thing we can do is to divide the community groups into more but smaller groups to follow the guidance. In the long term, Covid-19 has not affected the operations of the project so much, it has just slowed it down this year.
One of the tasks I have been doing is to provide hand washing buckets, soap, sanitiser, and face masks to over 35 communities in the Chikwawa area. This is so important to stop Covid-19 spreading through our communities. We have been supported by APF donors in the UK to do this but we need more assistance so we can purchase more.
- Giving thanks for the long-standing partnership APF has with Revd Lloyd Chizenga and his team
- Giving thanks for Lloyd’s faith and optimism about picking up where we left off with Growing Greener
- That some training has been able to continue albeit with reduced numbers
- For any negative unintended consequences of social distancing on cultural habits to be minimal but that soap, water and facemasks being provided by Lloyd have maximum impact, maintaining public health and protection from coronavirus in Chikwawa region