2017 February

My first week at MUD Africa 

Hello again! It has been a fruitful week not only with MUD Africa and LUPPEN, but for me personally. We started on Monday with a preparatory meeting for the follow-ups, outlining what we wanted to do and how. Our plan was to use the same questionnaire that Matilda used earlier in the year, so that we could compare the results from both of the sessions to see if there was any evidence of progress between the two follow-ups. We also decided to add one additional question, asking the trainers to estimate how many people they had reached out to during the elapsed time.

LUPPEN coordinator Harry speaking in Katantha

LUPPEN coordinator Harry speaking in Katantha

The rest of the week, we visited Kaliwawala, Kaphinda, Katantha, and Area 44, and were received wholeheartedly in every settlement. It was fantastic seeing how many people showed up to the follow-ups, and also the lengthy discussions and insight that everyone readily offered. We had between 40 and 70 people at every meeting. Not only that, but it seemed that everyone had taken their newly acquired knowledge of land rights very seriously! Most of the groups stated that they had reached out to large numbers of peers, teaching them about their rights to register land and the benefits of doing so. Next week, we plan to start the translation of the questionnaire, so that we can have a more clear idea on the details of the answers, and discuss how we can move forward with LUPPEN.

Lebiam and Ekelina holding a follow-up discussion

Lebiam and Ekelina holding a follow-up discussion in Kaliwawala

One highlight of the week was a poem written and recited by a man in Kaphinda. He stood up in front of the group, and told the story of how, when is father died, his mother was evicted from the land that they had lived on for decades. He voiced his appreciation for our work, saying that now that he was armed with the knowledge of his rights to land, he was assured that the same thing wouldn’t happen to his children. This is one powerful anecdotal example of LUPPEN and MUD Africa’s actual impact.

Having only worked one week with LUPPEN, I have already learned a lot and garnered an enormous amount of appreciation for what LUPPEN and MUD Africa are doing. Having recently finished my MSc, I am all too used to criticizing essentially everything, something that seems quite symptomatic of academics in general. The problem, however, is that the classroom is so distant from what actually happens on the ground, and has a position of luxury, in that pointing out the faults from afar does little to actually change things. That is not to say that academics isn’t of utmost importance– because it of course is­– but being here, and seeing how appreciative people are of the mere knowledge of their rights, is profound for me as an intern. Being partnered with and in the company of LUPPEN is a guarantee of unconditional respect, which speaks volumes to the work that they have been dedicated to for years. I can’t help but be excited for continuing to work with LUPPEN.

Man reciting his poem about his struggles with land rights in Kaphhinda

Man reciting his poem about his struggles with land rights in Kaphhinda

Next week, we will start the planning stages of our next project­ – the school trainings for primary school students in the same four settlements that we visited this week. Can’t wait to start the next stage! Over and out!

From Planes to Rains

Hi! My name is Anders Sjöstrand, and I will be working at MUD Africa’s intern this spring, picking up where Matilda left off in January. To give a little background as to why I’m writing in English when I have such a Swedish name, which some of you may be wondering, I am Swedish/American but lived in the States until about 4 years ago. I moved to Sweden to study the master’s program Globalization, Environment, and Social Change at Stockholm University, which I completed last year. My academic interests range from socially-just conservation, land rights issues, environmental imagery, access rights, and political ecology. And now I have the opportunity to work with one of these interests in Malawi! I am so excited to be here, and look forward to working with MUD Africa and LUPPEN over the next three months!

I finally arrived in Lilongwe this past Thursday, after a long and tiring flight from Stockholm. I have never been to East Africa before, so I didn’t really know what to expect when people spoke of the ‘rainy season’, but I was given a thunderous introduction by a hefty storm on my first night. Unfortunately, the storm brought serious flooding to some of the settlements around Lilongwe, most acutely in Area 49, which you can read about here. Hearing about the flooding was a quick introduction into the poverty and vulnerability of many of the urban poor in Lilongwe, especially in the settlements that lie in flood prone areas, where many live in transitional, low-cost housing.

First Spring meeting with LUPPEN

First Spring meeting with LUPPEN

On Friday, Markus and I met with the LUPPEN team, and got the ball rolling on the planning process of our upcoming activities. It was immediately clear how warm and welcoming the team was, and I’m already anxious to work with such a knowledgeable and experienced group. Unfortunately, we have to wait to begin the ‘main’ activities, because LUPPEN needs next week to finalize the activity reports that need to be sent back to MUD Africa. However, during the following week from the 20th to the 24th, we have planned to do follow-ups in four of the newer settlements involved with the project- Katantha, Area 44, Kamphinda, and Kaliwawala. During these follow-ups, we plan to evaluate the progress being made since Matilda visited the same areas in January.

On the following Monday, we will have the first preparatory meeting for the school trainings, which we will be busy with for the following five weeks. More on that to come!

We have some exciting activities coming up, and will keep you updated as they start rolling along! Until next time! /Anders

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