Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Mwanza Women Celebrate Self-Reliance

There was joy and earth-shattering celebration at Mwanza Community Ground on 17 December 2010 when 78 women from nine Village Savings and Lending groups who have participating in ASAP Africa Malawi’s Chimvano pa Chuma Project were being presented with certificates.

“I can’t believe this is happening to me!” A visibly elated Mary Bintoni exclaimed. “I cannot believe my business is running well and I still have this envelope with more money than I contributed to my group’s savings!”

On this day, the women received their certificates acknowledging their successful completion of a savings and lending cycle, and an envelope containing money they had contributed to their group’s savings plus the interest it had accrued in the lending activities. ASAP Africa Malawi’s Country Director could not hide his satisfaction: “We are very pleased that we are meaningfully contributing to Malawi Government’s efforts to provide a means for rural women to become self-reliant”, he enthused. Over Mk 830, 000 was shared at the function.

“This festive season is a season with a difference. At a time like this last year, before I joined ASAP’s Chimvano pa Chuma Program, I was in extreme debt and had no food for my children. Now, I have all the money I need for my business, food and farm inputs,” said a jovial Mrs Kamwana.

Friday, December 10, 2010

New Pigeon Pea Study

In Malawi ASAP begin has been encouraging farmers to grow Pigeon Peas since we began working in the country in January 2009. In partnership with Total Land Care, ASAP facilitated the distribution of superior Pigeon Pea seeds in a seed multiplication project. To learn more about ASAP Africa's agriculture projects - that YOUR donations make possible - click here.

Now a new study finds that planting Pigeon Peas and other legumes has even more benefits than previously thought and can actually reduce the amount of fertilizer required. To read more about the study click here.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Home Is Where Your Heart Is

Due to economic and political hardships in Zimbabwe over the past 10 years, it is estimated that more than 3 million Zimbabweans are living outside of their country today. Thanks to the UK-based Development Foundation for Zimbabwe, diasporans in more than seven countries will meet later this month to dialogue with the Government on how they can inject millions of dollars in investment as part of actively participating in the economic recovery of the country.To read more click here. Plans for future investment are certainly encouraging. The map above depicts the the food insecurity prevailing in this country of desperate need. Your contribution to ASAP is helping families survive and thrive today.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Inflation in Zimbabwe... WHY?

In Zimbabwe the largest supermarkets have increased their average price for a basket of goods by about 15% during the fourth quarter of the year. Experts say the rate of food price inflation was making life increasingly difficult for the millions of families already struggling to make ends meet under the weight of rising rentals, energy costs, taxes, interest rates and school fees.

After enduring hyper-inflation that peaked at 400 million percent, the country adopted the USD in Feb 2009, a move which many thought would stabilize the economy. But what is the reason for the sudden rise in prices of goods and services? Could it be the country's trade rebate structure, firming of the rand, taxes, response to speculation or is it sheer profiteering? To read more click here.

For the women in ASAP's Village Savings & Lending rural micro-finance project, their funds are often invested in assets - household commodities such as cooking oil, sugar and salt. This protects their capital in volatile times, often increasing profit. To read more click here. Remember, your donation of only $30 will improve the life of a struggling family by providing VS&L training.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Share Your World AIDS Day Wishes

Maybe you’d like to wish your HIV-positive friend a life filled with good food, good laughter and good friends. Maybe you’re wishing that by next World AIDS Day we’ve made even more progress in the fight against the disease. To share your World AIDS Day ONE wish with others click here.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Malawi's "Greenbelt Iniative"

Aimed at raising agricultural output and counter climatic unpredictability, Malawi's “Greenbelt Initiative” will bring changes to the agriculture sector. Malawi, a country of 14 million people, one of the world’s most densely populated nations, is mainly dependent on rain-fed agriculture but recent climatic changes have affected its production.

President Bingu wa Mutharika announced yesterday that the Agriculture Marketing & Development Corporation will have a new role, in order to ensure that farmers have access to the international market. To read more Click here. Links with India also feature prominently in the Initiative. To learn more Click here.

ASAP's ongoing training in conservation agriculture aims to address climate change through simple, cost-effective conservation farming methods such as, carefully timed planting, mulching with ground covers, weeding, crop rotation and inter-planting. As evidenced in the sorghum crop pictured, all these increase soil fertility and discourage pests while increasing crop yields. To learn more about ASAP Africa's agriculture projects Click here.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Malawi Program Visit

Elizabeth Bara and Tom Arsenault have recently returned from visiting both the ASAP Malawi program and the ASAP Zimbabwe program. In Malawi, some days were spent meeting field officers in the rural areas where the projects are implemented. They were able to meet many of the Village Savings and Lending (VS&L) club members and hear firsthand about the various activities of the project.

One of the members is doing a great beekeeping project with ten beehives. Some are doing piggery, some fowl and eggs while others are cooking doughnuts and cakes. The majority of members are buying and reselling for their income generating projects. Buying and reselling involves quite an number of different products such as tomatoes, dried fish, clothing, flip-flop shoes, various nuts, vegetables and many others. There are even a couple of groups doing larger whole group projects – making and bottling achar (a type of relish) and fruit jam.

The Malawi program is relatively new and it is so exciting to see how these women have gone from zero to having their own money for school fees and farming inputs as a result of the training from ASAP field officers. And they all certainly expressed how happy and grateful they are for ASAP’s extensive training in VS&L.

Friday, November 05, 2010

New Grant Funding Partner!

ASAP Africa Malawi is proud to announce a new grant from the Sundance Pay It Forward Foundation. The $20,000 one year grant will support the "Chimvano pa Chuma" - Unity for Economic Growth project ongoing in southern Malawi. Through Village Savings & Lending activities, over 7,000 families will increase their household income and food security. To read more about this project and some of the phenomenal success stories Click here.
To learn more about the Sundance Pay It Forward Foundation Click here.

Monday, November 01, 2010

What Constitutes a Safe School?

ASAP is proud to be partnering with UNICEF and 20 other organizations on a new three month project - Social Awareness Campaign for Primary Schools. The problem to be addressed is that many parents are now hesitant to send their children to school in Zimbabwe. The schools are not perceived as a safe a apolitical environment. With national elections forthcoming, the SACPS will determine what can be done to restore communities confidence in their local school as a secure place to learn.

In 2011 the Ministry of Education in Zimbabwe will be distributing textbooks and stationery to all primary schools. The SACPS will also define ways to maximize the benefits and longevity of this much needed support.

To read more click here.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

DIFID Supports SWAP to Help Education in Malawi

The UK Government through the Department for International Development (DFID) in Malawi has announced support to the Government of Malawi to implement a new national education reform program that will put many more girls into secondary school; reduce repetition and dropout rates; and support all 5,500 primary schools with new School Improvement Grants. These measures will reduce the average number of children per teacher in primary schools from 81:1 in 2009 to 60:1 by 2013.
To read more click here.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Zimbabweans in South Africa Face Uncertainty

In Zimbabwe daily survival is such a struggle that, in desperation, many cross into neighboring South Africa in search of menial labor. It is estimated that as many as two million Zimbabweans live and work undocumented in South Africa. But now South Africa's cabinet has announced that as of 31 December this year, the special dispensation will end, for reasons of regional security.To read more click here. For contacts in South Africa for
Zimbabwe Exiles Forum
Holding Hands for Zimbabwe International
Jesuit Refugee Services
People Against Suffering, Suppression, Oppression and Poverty
Lawyers for Human Rights
Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa
The South African Human Rights Commission
click here.

Monday, September 06, 2010



Abdulai Wade (Senegal) age 83
Hosni Mubarak (Egypt) age 82
Robert Mugabe (Zimbabwe) age 86
Hifikepunye Pohamba (Namibia) age 74
Rupiah Banda (Zambia) age 73
Mwai Kibaki (Kenya) age 71
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf(Liberia)age 75
Colonel Gaddafi (Libya) age 68
Jacob Zuma (South Africa) age 68
Bingu Wa Mtalika (Malawi) age 76
____________ ________________
Average Age: 75.6 ~ Approximately 76 years


Barrack Obama (USA) age 48
David Cameron (UK) age 43
Dimitri Medvedev (Russia) age 45
Stephen Harper (Canada) age 51
Julia Gillard (Australia) age 49
Nicolas Sarkozy (France) age 55
Luis Zapatero (Spain) age 49
Jose Socrates (Portugal) age 53
Angela Merkel (Germany) age 56
Herman Van Rompuy (Belgium) age 62
Average Age:51.1 ~ Approximately 51 years


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Harvest of Hope for ASAP Africa

ASAP is honored and blessed that A Harvest of Hope, has chosen to support ASAP Africa again this year. The 2nd annual event, held in Newport Beach CA in June, was a great success. The creative energy, hard work and positive momentum created by this annual event is truly inspiring. Words cannot express our gratitude!

Friday, August 13, 2010

LIAT + VS&L = Food Security

Africa is the only continent in which food production has failed to keep up with the growth in population. In Malawi, where shortages of the staple food, maize, hunger and malnutrition result in high infant mortality, improved crop production techniques are a high priority.

This is why ASAP Africa Malawi's "Chimvano pa Chuma" - Unity for Economic Growth" - program integrates low input agriculture and organic farming techniques with village savings and lending skills training.

Click here to learn more about low input agriculture and organic farming, and the challenges faced by subsistence farmers in Malawi.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Zimbabwean Constitution Survey

Today Sokwanele is launching an online Constitution survey that aims to gather views from Zimbabweans everywhere, including the millions of Zimbabweans who live in the Diaspora and who have been largely excluded from the constitution-making process. Please help us to spread the word about the availability of the constitution survey by spreading the word to Zimbabweans you know.The survey can be found online at www.sokwanele.com/zimbabweconstitution/survey.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Unconditional Money in Malawi

A World Bank study that put money in the hands of girls and their parents in Malawi's poor southern region make us ask - are conditions necessary?

An average of US$10 per month was handed out to a group of girls participating in the study on condition that they attended school 80 percent of the time so to remain eligible for the stipend. It made no difference to the outcome when no conditions were imposed - the girls participating in the study attended school 80 percent of the time, and in both cases the school drop-out rate also fell by 40 percent. Click here to read more. As with these women pictured above in ASAP's Internal Savings & Lending program, when rural families have access to discretionary household income, it is most commonly used to educate the children. This is not mandated - but for parents to desire a better life for their children is universal. Click here to read more about this life changing micro-finance program.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Children in Microfinance

In the Honde Valley of Zimbabwe, where ASAP is working in partnership with Plan International, over 2,300 families are improving their household income through saving club activities. To date 4,204 loans, amounting to to over $33,500 have been accessed by these families, mainly for starting and diversifying agricultural based income generating activities like these pictured above.

415 of these participants are children. With the help of their parents, they are learning to become self- reliant and entrepreneurial at an early age. Pictured here, these children are proud of the poultry cage they have made and have been promised 15 chicks for a start by their parents, who encourage them to be actively involved.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Vision Alignment Project

When people realize that their thoughts and Visions are creating their future,
then we can create a better future for ourselves.
Click here to learn more.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

ASAP Welcomes TLC Visit

Dr. Zwide Jere, Total Land Care(TLC) Director in Malawi, was warmly welcomed by women in ASAP's savings clubs last week, and were eager to share their success. Pictured below, this savings club member is proud to be building a home with funds from her VS&L funds.

Total Land Care (TLC) and ASAP Africa in Malawi have been working together in the Southern villages to enhance the household and food security and improve agricultural practice of families in this marginalized area since 2008.

With training from ASAP, women in these communities have been reaping the benefits of the Village Savings and Lending rural micro-finance project, named "Chimvano pa Chuma"- Unity for Economic Growth. Click here to learn more about this life-changing project.

Monday, July 12, 2010

A New Way to Learn African Languages

Planning a visit to Malawi? If so, expand your Chichewa vocabulary with Google.
Likewise, if traveling to Zimbabwe you may find the Shona and Ndebele Google useful.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Who Benefits from Bumper Crops in Malawi?

This desperate women resorts to "harvesting water lilies on the Shire River for food, where people could drown and crocodiles lurked." Yet Malawi's agriculture sector has had a second successive bumper harvest of maize, the staple food. It is ironic that it is estimated that 710,000 people in the southern regions, where ASAP works, are still threatened with starvation. Problems with the ability to distribute food surpluses quickly throughout the country leave the the international community considering other alternatives to providing food aid. To read more click here.

Meanwhile, Malawi has started selling much-needed maize to Zimbabwe under an export agreement which includes a US$10 million line of credit. To read more click here.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Happy Independence Day to Malawi

Today Malawi celebrates 46 years of independence from Britain. In colonial times Malawi was known as British Central Africa, Nyasaland and a member of the the Federation of Rhodesia. The region was part of the Maravi Empire in the late 15th century.

The Maravi Empire was founded by the Amaravi people, who eventually became known as the Chewa (a word possibly derived from a term meaning "foreigner"), migrated to Malawi from the region of the modern day Republic of Congo to escape unrest and disease. They were renown as iron workers and Maravi is thought to mean "rays of light". To read more about the history of Malawi click here.

Speaking of light, today, July 6th is also the Dalai Lama's birthday. To send him a 75th birthday greetings click here.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Malawi Passes Child Protection Bill

The bill outlines responsibilities and roles of parents on how to raise their children in their respective homes, addresses issues of child abduction, trafficking, harmful cultural practices, and it recognizes principles that are in the best interest of children. There are 1.4 million child workers in Malawi, mainly in tea plantations and domestic servitude. Some criticize the bill for conflicting with cultural norms and being too "western". To read more click here.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Former President Bill Clinton Visits Malawi

All work and no play? For many Americans this is not an expression that we associate with the former President. His visit to Malawi yesterday to follow-up on development projects funded by his Foundation was combined with attending the World Cup. He decided to stay for today's match between Ghana and the US - and to pitch the US as a future World Cup venue to FIFA. To read more click here.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Thank You to the Flora Family Foundation

Collins Mutsvairo, ASAP Zimbabwe's Bridge the Gap Project Manager, was honored to attend the Teacher Education and Development Trainees Conference held in Kampala, Uganda last week. Funded by the Flora Family Foundation, the conference brought together practitioners working to improve education from throughout Africa. ASAP is thankful for the opportunity to share experiences and collaborate with colleagues. To read ASAP's Bridge the Gap Project Report click here.
To watch the video overview of the BTG project click here.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Growing Global Citizens

UNICEF has launched Teach UNICEF - a fantastic website that provides resources such as lesson plans, stories, and multimedia to cover topics and encourage the exploration of critical global issues that impact children worldwide. Materials on the site can be downloaded for free. The goal is to offer interested youth an opportunity to take action and create a new generation of well-informed global citizens.

Click here to learn more.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Zimbabwe Takes Step Toward New Constitution

President Robert Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party have finally allowed the process of crafting a new constitution to begin, nearly a year behind schedule. To read more click here.

To download the 2005 amended Zimbabwe constitution click here.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Micro-Light Visitors fly in to ASAP Malawi

With a mission to raise awareness of and secure funding for microfinance initiatives in Africa, micro light pilots Thom de Wit and Merle Pijlman, are flying across Africa to learn more about microfinance. On 7 June 2010, they arrived in Malawi as guests of ASAP Malawi and are pictured below with Victor Katchika-Jere, ASAP's Country Director in Malawi.
They were driven to Ndakwera and Nyampemba communities where ASAP is currently implementing village savings and lending projects (VSL). The couple met with more than 100 club members in two separate community meetings.
Senior Group Village Headman Singano, also an active VSL club member, said: “This methodology has shown us that our money can grow and make profit from it through lending. If we were to go to a bank we would have to pay some deposit and then also have bank charges deducted from our own money.”
ASAP’s Country Director, Mr. Victor Katchika-Jere emphasized the vision of ASAP Malawi: “This organization is committed to eradicating poverty. ASAP believes that this starts when the people have a stable capital base to start their Income Generating Activities (IGAs) and have the right training to help them in making informed decisions about what business to engage in. The Chimvano pa Chuma Project through VSL builds community capacity to embrace a savings culture.”
Mission accomplished, the couple left Malawi on Wednesday, June 9, 2010 on their way to Tanzania, Kenya, Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt enroute to Holland. To learn more about their journey click here.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Special Malawi Graduation

People attending a recent graduation of ASAP Internal Savings and Lending (IS&L) members got a real treat. Traditional dancers performed at this graduation making it a very special event. The people graduating are members of ASAP’s IS&L program who have reached the stage of independence when they no longer need ASAP field officer monitoring and training. These graduation ceremonies are normally quite a festive time with singing, dancing and handing out of certificates to the graduating group. But this celebration became even better with the performance of traditional dancers.

Each of these masked dancers represent a different kind of animal as they dance in a manner that depicts the nature of that animal. The tree leaves in each “animal’s” hands are used for signaling to the drummers, other dancers and people leading the way when the animals are walking.

As ASAP's IS&L program has grown in Malawi, graduations have become a more common event but these traditional dancers made this graduation truly a very special graduation.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

An Opportunity to Learn and Share

Collins Mutsvairo, ASAP Africa's Bridge the Gap Project Manager is looking forward to attending a conference on learning outcomes this month. The meeting, to be held in Kampala, Uganda, is funded by the Flora Family Foundation.

Collins is eager to share the results and findings from ASAP's 5 year math teacher training project that ended in December 2009, which was partially funded the Flora Family Foundation. To watch a video overview of the BTG project click here.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Happy Africa Day - May 25th

May 25th is Africa Day. Take this opportunity to celebrate African unity diversity and success and join Africans around the world in highlighting the cultural and social energy of the continent. To read more about Africa Day click here.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Pay It Forward

Pictured above is Helen Kaufman, Taylor Smeback and Steph Fraiser of Bay Port High School in Howard/Suamico Wisconsin. Their group, Alms For Africa, is working together with ASAP Africa on their Pay It Forward project to provide text books for Tsvito school in rural Zimbabwe.

This small rural school, where up to 40 children share one textbook, will benefit greatly from the work of these students. Providing textbooks is like planting a seed along a path; we may never see that seed reach fruition, it is the faith in our intentions that guarantee that these children will benefit greatly from the kindness and hard work of Alms For Africa. What better way to Pay It Forward !

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Don't miss "Music by Prudence" Tomorrow Night

Zimbabwean singer-songwriter Prudence Mabhena is the central figure in the Oscar-winning documentary short Music by Prudence, premiering on HBO on May 12.

To read more about this inspiring story of great hope click here.

This summer, in Asheville NC, Matt Siegel will be sharing this movie as part of his Summer Harvest of Hope benefit event for ASAP Africa. Click here to read more about how you can get involved.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Food Security is The Focus

In an interview with the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), Bingu wa Mutharika, President of Malawi, said he planned to work with other African leaders to devise a program on food security that was sustainable "regardless of who is looking at it". He plans to set up what he called an African compact on food security to act as an independent advisory body to the African Union (AU) on agriculture and food issues.
"I'll invite about eight, nine heads of states that are committed to this [food security] program and I'll invite international organizations, the Africa Development Bank, the World Bank, the European Union... and some of the countries in the G8, and say here's a program, here's what we want to do, and sustain this within the context of the African green revolution," said the president.
The comments of Mutharika come as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) launches a paper highlighting the risks to food security posed by climate change. The FAO report, Climate change implications for food security and natural resources management in Africa, published today, urges African governments to "prioritize and implement measures" to develop agriculture and sustainable resource management.
ASAP has programs that address food security in both Malawi and Zimbabwe. The Malawi office works closely with Total Land Care a large organization working in agriculture. The ZImbabwe program is currently working with the FAO and other organizations to address sustainable food security.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Happy Earth Day! Earth Day is a day designed to inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth's environment. It was founded by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson as an environmental teach-in held on April 22, 1970. Earth Day is now celebrated annually on April 22 in virtually every country on Earth.
In honor of Earth Day ASAP is launching "The Summer Harvest of Hope". People all across the country will be conducting local fundraisers for ASAP during the summer, from May to September. We are looking for people to sign up by Africa Day May 25th all planned events will be listed on the website.
It is also noteworthy that ASAP directors recently met with University of Georgia Agriculture experts, Jason Governo and Ryan Adolphson to discuss ASAP's developing an Organic Composting and Soil Renewal project in Zimbabwe and Malawi. We look forward to working in partnership with U of G and these gentlemen on this project as it matures.

Monday, April 19, 2010

This blog has moved

This blog is now located at __FTP_MIGRATION_NEW_URL__.
You will be automatically redirected in 30 seconds, or you may click here.

For feed subscribers, please update your feed subscriptions to

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The entire ASAP family is proud of Country Director Regai Tsunga as he was chosen to speak at the commencement ceremony of Zimbabwe Outreach University yesterday. For Regai it seemed like a normal experience speaking before renowned academics, captains of commerce and industry, senior civil servants, religious leaders, university students and alumni.
At ASAP we agree that ZOU made a great selection!

Monday, April 12, 2010

World-Wide Golfers Shift Focus from Augusta to Zimbabwe

As golf fans world-wide congratulate Phil Michelson on his victory at the Master's in Augusta GA last week-end, Zimbabwe is preparing for golfers to shift their attention later this month for the Africom Zimbabwe Open. To read more click here.

Many are hopeful that the revival of the Africom Zimbabwe Open will help to change the perception of the world towards Zimbabwe. Players from all over the world and the region will come and play, where the good image of Zimbabwe as a safe business, sporting and tourism destination may also be revitalized.

The visit by South Africa's Julius Malema, the ANC Youth Leader, to Zimbabwe over Easter did not help bolster this cause. Although President Zuma of South Africa has been quick to reign in the outspoken young man, many fear that irreversible damage has already been done. To read more, click here.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Summer Harvest of Hope for ASAP Africa

Become actively involved by holding an event for ASAP this summer.
Register your Summer Harvest of Hope event by Africa Day, May 25th and help ASAP improve agriculture skills in Zimbabwe & Malawi.
Start planning your event today - click here for details & registration form.
Do Good! Have Fun! Educate! Invite everyone!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Enoch Katchika-Jere Goes Home for the Week-end

Victor Katchika-Jere, ASAP Malawi's Country Director,is pleased to report that Enoch spent the week-end resting at home for the first time since his birth on March 16th. On Wednesday Victor explained:

"My wife fell sick in the middle of the night on Tuesday. We rushed to the hospital and was told by doctors that her blood pressure was precariously high. The doctors were left with no option but to prematurely terminate the pregnancy through Cesarean section in order to save lives of both the mother and the unborn baby. She was operated on yesterday afternoon at Mwaiwathu Private Hospital and gave birth to a baby boy! The mother’s condition is now stable and the baby is in the Intensive Care Unit"

The story has a happy ending and we are happy to welcome Enoch into the world!!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Pre-schoolers Benefit from Micro-finance

In Mutasa District of rural Zimbabwe, Anah Muganiwa, Gladys Murinda and Jesimine Gawaza have recently teamed up to open a creche using their Internal Savings and Lending (ISL)proceeds. ISL is a hugely successful rural micro-finance methodology that ASAP has been implementing in Zimbabwe since 2001 and in Malawi since 2008. The 3 women have secured a license to operate a creche from the Ministry of Education. The capital realized from group savings shares was used for logistical purposes and paying of initial rent of the premises. They now realise profit by end of each month and currently have an enrollment of 65 children.

To read more about ASAP's ISL projects click here.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Jestina Mukoko of Zimbabwe

On March 10th U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced this year's recipients of the International Women of Courage Award. These women have shown exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for human rights and women’s equality. From Zimbabwe, Jestina Mukoko was selected for her exemplary and steadfast dedication to human rights.

To watch a short video clip of the awards click here.

To read more Jestina Mukoko's story click here.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Arnold Tsunga Interview

Africa.com recently interviewed Zimbabwean lawyer and human rights activist Arnold Tsunga at the Human Rights Summit in Washington D.C. Arnold is the brother of Regai Tsunga, ASAP Zimbabwe Country Director. In a current climate one international human rights activist called a “global backlash against civil society”, we asked Arnold about the situation in Africa.

I heard you met with President Obama this morning. How did that meeting go?

It was a very good meeting, very positive. He is inspiring. He started by outlining America’s policy, which was very well received. It centers on strengthening multilateralism - a new US policy approach to ensure that complex global challenges are resolved through collective processes rather than through unilateralism. We as human rights defenders feel that any weakening of multilateral institutions like the UN, as well as the regional systems, poses a particular danger to our work. So his words resonated with us. One way he pushes this agenda is to always emphasize to other governments that human rights do not rank second or are inferior to other American interests in bilateral affairs. He also makes a point to have high-level meetings with civil society as well as government. This does not make many governments happy, but he thinks it is important that America begin to relate with the world in a way that reflects American core values.

What are the most important distinctions across Sub-Saharan countries in terms of human rights?

Much of East and Southern Africa have similarities in legal and educational systems, not to mention language, as a result of British colonization. While Central and West Africa have some similarities, Central Africa is dominated by the pervasive influence of the DRC in the Great Lakes area. There is more instability and more serious human rights violations, almost a failure of government. If you look at the DRC, Congo, Chad, Central African Republic, and Sudan, especially the Western side of Sudan, you can see these countries are very fragile and lack popular participation in governance. East Africa is the most stable region with the exception of Somalia, especially post the Rwandan genocide. [Rwandan President] Kagame has done a good job, I think, in terms of re-invigorating a system of government and making sure the economy functions.

How would you characterize the situation in Zimbabwe right now?

Zimbabwe is on the mend. The economy has made significant improvements. Because of global political agreement, you will find that the oppressive violence, abductions, and executions that took place in the run-up to the 2008 elections have largely disappeared. You still have residual violations like arbitrary detentions, intimidation of human rights defenders, confiscation of newspapers, and preventing people from assembling to discuss issues around the constitution and trying to further the consolidation of democracy. These actions come from elements of the government who do not believe in the change process that is taking place. The concern is that unless there are effective democratic and political developments the progress can be reversed. Mugabe is still strong and still controls the security sector, though they have seen that they need the opposition and they are losing the propaganda war. People no longer believe the Mugabe mantra that the conflict in Zimbabwe is about the West versus Africa and is a fight for black economic empowerment. There is a general agreement on the African continent that Mugabe’s leadership has failed. As a result of that the ability to use brazen force has been reduced. But the capacity is still there.


Arnold Tsunga is Director of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) Africa Regional Programme and one of the leading human rights lawyers in Zimbabwe. He previously held the position of Executive Director of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), as well as acting Executive Secretary of the Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ). Arnold Tsunga also sits on a number of Boards of human rights groups, provides leadership on a voluntary basis to several non-profit organizations and has written numerous articles on the human rights and rule of law situation in Zimbabwe and the region. Although he has been harassed, threatened, arrested and beaten several times, he continues to represent people who have been arrested unfairly under the repressive conditions in Zimbabwe, especially those who have been physically abused while in custody. For his dedication to defending human rights in spite of the threat to his own life, Arnold Tsunga received both the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders and the Human Rights Watch Human Rights defender Award in 2006.

Monday, March 01, 2010

A First for ASAP Malawi

Saturday, February 20 and Friday February 26, 2010 brought sweet memories to Blantyre Rural and Chikhwawa District communities respectively, as community members danced, clapped and cheered for the first graduates of ASAP’s Village Savings and Lending program in Malawi. A total of 332 community members, participating in 31 Savings Groups, graduated on the two days.

Graduates were presented with certificates of accomplishment as a confirmation that they had fulfilled all the requirements for the village savings and lending initiative. The graduating community members displayed items, which they sell in their small businesses demonstrating to the other community members that they had indeed benefitted from the discipline of savings and lending.

ASAP Africa Malawi Country Director, Victor Katchika-Jere, attended both ceremonies and in his speech encouraged the graduating members to continue working and saving together in groups to ensure members always have accessible loans. “When we started, communities did not have the much-needed confidence that they could put their savings together and lend out their money to group members. They were asking ASAP to provide them with seed money but we did not. Today, we are witnessing the same community members who, nine months ago thought they could not do things on their own, sharing thousands of Kwachas and showcasing the types of small-scale businesses which have been established within a few months.” he said amidst handclapping and cheering from the crowd.

In the Chikhwawa ceremony Traditional Authority, Chief Ndakwera thanked ASAP for transforming the mindset of the people who had been made lazy by relying heavily on handouts from different organizations. “ASAP has managed to change the way we look at development. We need to take a leading role in our own development and the development of our area,’’ he added, “In just a few months community members have saved thousands of Kwachas and we have seen people investing their money in different business activities. If we all join hands with ASAP through this self-help initiative, our area should very soon develop beyond belief.”

Friday, February 26, 2010

Local Acceptance is the Key to Success

In rural Malawi, the District Assemblies’ Executive Committees (DECs) are the local authorities. It is essential that these important stakeholders are on your team if development projects are going to succeed. Even with over 2,800 rural villagers enthusiastically engaged in ASAP's Village Savings & Lending project - known as "Chimvano Pa Chuma" or "Unity for Economic Growth" - these well-respected leaders “call the shots”.

In Chikwawa, Blantyre Rural and Mwanza Districts Mr. Victor Katchika-Jere, ASAP Africa Malawi Country Director and Mr. Michael Mainje, the Project Manager, made a series of presentations to these DECs recently. The meetings gave District Assemblies updates on progress made hitherto, challenges encountered and lessons learnt. DEC members were given the opportunity to comment, ask questions and put forward suggestions to ensure quality and increased impact of the program.
In their contribution, DEC members applauded ASAP for constantly updating the DEC. “We are pleased to note that you have achieved a lot in the few months you have been working in the district,” said the Director of Planning and Development for Chikwawa, Mr Chitao. He added “the fact that you have taken heart to update us shows that you are confident in what you are achieving on the ground. I’m appealing to other NGOs to emulate what ASAP has done.” In the picture below, Michael Mainje, ASAP Malawi Project Manager makes a presentation during one of the meetings.
Mr Victor Katchika-Jere, ASAP Malawi Country Director expressed his appreciation for the continuing support ASAP enjoys from the District Assemblies. Said he “We are sharing all these success stories today because you have always given us the support we need. We are committed to working with the under served communities in order to improve the socio-economic status of the rural people in sustainable and effective fashion.” Captured here is Victor Katchika-Jere, in a black jacket, emphasizing a point during the meeting in Chikwawa District.

To read more about ASAP's Village Savings & Lending click here.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

US Congressional Team Visits Zimbabwe

Melvin Watt, a former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, and three other US Congressmen are currently in Zimbabwe assessing the progress of the unity government after one year.

This week the European Union extended sanctions on Zimbabwe for another 12 months, citing a lack of progress in fulfilling the power-sharing pact. The EU will meet again on Zimbabwe next week. Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund's board will consider whether to restore Zimbabwe's IMF voting rights in a meeting on Friday.

To read more click here.