Richard Chakhame, director of Planning and Research in the Ministry of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare, addressing delegates

LILONGWE-(MaraviPost)-There are increasing concerns that some local and international Non-Novernmental Organizations (NGOs) in Malawi have concentrated their interventions in the corners of some districts, leaving in the cold many other equally troubled communities across the country.

NGOs are reportedly shunning certain areas due to, among others, mismatch of their interests and priorities with those of councils and local structures.

It is also alleged that some places are hard and costly to reach for some NGOs and, therefore, they want to focus in areas where they can achieve quick gains and results.

These concerns have prompted the Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) Board of Malawi–a state owned registrar and regulator of NGOs and civil society organizations–to start developing a concept note which seeks to harmonize the interventions of all NGOs and align them to District Development Plans (DDPs).

The board held a consultative meeting in the Capital Lilongwe–drawing together NGO representatives, directors of planning from district councils and top officials from ministries of gender and local government–to brainstorm and agree how NGOs interventions in districts can be harmonized.

The NGO board, in this undertaking, is working in collaboration with the Council for Non-Governmental Organizations in Malawi (Congoma)–a membership umbrella organisation and coordinating body for NGOs–which has acknowledged the concerns and agrees they could be addressed collectively.

Speaking in an interview with Maravi Post, the chief executive officer of the NGO Board of Malawi, Voice Mhone, said the problem of lack of harmonization among NGOs is very serious and requires immediate solution.

“The development partners off budget support to NGOs, which is over 60 perfect of the country’s annual budget, is not evenly distributed. Only pockets of some districts are covered. Some communities are disadvantaged and their right to development is trampled upon.

“So we do not want NGOs to stray too much like maybe working in ten districts and in each district only targeting two Traditional Authorities. We want to see an NGO probably working in one district or all NGOs working in one district covering the whole district,” said Mhone.

Mhone added that the government of Malawi, through the board, wants to see NGOs coordinating, connecting and aligning their proposals and projects to priorities in DDPs and engaging local councils and grassroot people in a bottom up approach.

“We want to see, for instance, all NGOs dealing with water projects to come together at district level and deal with issues of water across the district. Some going this corner. Others going that corner. The same thing would apply, let us say on projects to do with hunger and many other issues,” he said.

Taking his turn, Congoma executive director, Ronald Mtonga, concurred with Mhone, adding that councils and local structures must be strengthened in order to enhance their roles to encourage joint proposals and planning.

However, Mtonga said there may be indisputable factors that could lead to lack of harmonization and weak coordination between NGOs and local councils and among NGOs themselves.

“NGOs, by law and policy of local government, are supposed to have their plans and projects approved by local councils. So it is expected that when they go there, they must get the information and services they require. But, sometimes, they find data is not available. They find some staff working in acting capacity and cannot make decisions. Vacant rates are very high in some councils which affects efficiency. In fact, the development of DDPs is, sometimes, a problem in councils,” he said.

One of the participants, Director of Planning and Development for Blantyre District Council, Tamanya Harawa, commended the Government of Malawi and NGO board for coming up with the harmonization initiative, saying it will really help.

“If we start planning, implementing, monitoring and evaluating and developing proposals together, making the data available, fostering evidence based kind of planning and support–we will address the problem of lack of harmonization and weak coordination,” said Harawa.

And Director of Planning and Research in the Ministry of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare, Richard Chakhame–said his ministry, Ministry of Local Government, NGO Board and Congoma–will work together to ensure that the concept note on harmonization of interventions of NGOs is thoroughly done in order to accomplish its objectives.

“There is need for the involvement of even more stakeholders like the National Local Government Finance Committee in terms of lobbying for more resources for the councils to be able to monitor the implementation of NGO programs and document the best practices and achievements that are being made on the ground,” Chakhame said.

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