Integrated Development: A Response for Women & HIV

Girls' Globe

Sub-Saharan Africa is presently the most severely affected region by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. According to the UNAIDS GAP Report, of the total population of 36.7 million living with HIV or AIDS globally, 19 million (seven out of every ten people) live in Eastern and Sub-Saharan Africa, adolescent girls and young women accounting for one in four new HIV infections in the region, therefore, every day in Sub-Saharan Africa 1000 girls and young women are infected with HIV.

South Africa, in particular, has one of the fastest growing rates of HIV infections in the world with an estimated 6.1 million people living with HIV/AIDS in 2015, an increase from 5.4 million in 2014. A high proportion of young people living with HIV/AIDS in South Africa are young women and adolescents aged 15-24, where 2000 new infections are reported from this vulnerable and at-risk population group every week.  HIV/AIDS…

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Mandela Washington fellowship 2016: The beginning of the rest of my life…

lusungu kalanga's Blog

I love new beginnings! Don’t we all? Even when they involve traveling for over fifteen hours across oceans, losing touch of the time and leaving loved ones behind for a while, they are worth it. The Mandela Washington fellowship has been a “beginning” I have looked forward to since 2013. If you read what I scribble down, you might know that this was my second time applying for this competitive fellowship.  When I walked out of the interview room back in 2013, I knew I had not made it. Far from feeling disappointed, I embarked on developing myself further to qualify the next time. This was not the first time I had not been successful (I have a folder full of “we regret…” letters).

I testify that  God’s time is the best and he is crazy faithful! I am a Mandela Washington 2016 fellow!


So I arrived at my host…

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Flash: Announcing the “YAP” finalists

Congratulations to the winners


kenya 12102010 166

What was the “YAP” project all about, again?

In the run-up to the upcoming #GCARD3 global event, we announced “YAP”, the Youth Agripreneurs Project. “YAP” is a pilot project targeting young agricultural entrepreneurs or “agripreneurs” by GFAR (the Global Forum on Agricultural Research), CGIAR (the Global Agricultural Research Partnership) and YPARD (the Young Professionals for Agricultural Development).

Within “YAP” we want to encourage young agripreneurs from all over the world, to think about their projects and formulate their ideas in a concrete proposal. We also wanted to use our blog, as a platform where these entrepreneurs could showcase their projects, while encouraging feedback on their proposals through the comments on each proposal’s blogpost.

In addition, we wanted to show, to a wider audience, how many creative, inspiring and concrete ideas these young people had. Through the online voting process – determining the first selection -, we wanted…

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Making Gender Considerations in ICT4Ags


Meet Mrs Phiri. She is a wife, a mother, and a farmer, spending most of her time juggling between these three roles. While she believes that being a mother and a wife is her calling as a woman; it is her third role that she would best describe as a uphill battle.

Together with her family, she grows maize, sweet potatoes, pumpkins and red beans on her “husband’s” land. However, farming is gradually becoming difficult. Just like last year, rains have delayed again and fall intermittently. Crop yields per acre continue to decline year by year.

The assets that the Phiri household owns are very basic. They have blankets, a tattered sofa set and eating utensils. Her husband bought a bicycle and a radio 3 years ago. He loves to listen to the radio and sometimes carries it with him as he cycles around the village. He has recently bought a basic mobile phone. Mrs Phiri sometimes uses the phone to talk to her friends but she has no idea about how to operate it herself.

A particular NGO working in Mrs Phiri’s area intends to commence an initiative on the promotion of Climate smart agricultural innovations through innovative extension methods, one of which is the use of ICTs. What strategies can this NGO use to reach women who are most in need of this information like Mrs Phiri?

The session on Capacity Development, Gender and ICTs in Agriculture during the ICT4Ag Conference shared experiences with classic scenarios just like the one just described. It was interesting to hear the experiences from different countries and how they are mainstreaming gender in their ICT for agriculture initiatives.

Women are very often disadvantaged in terms of access to extension services. This is even much worse when it comes to accessing information via ICTs. Women are faced with cultural barriers; they have weak access to and/or control over ICTs at household level.

Issues of illiteracy; lack of capacity to use ICTs; and even lack of income to access ICTs, also contribute to this predicament. It thus follows that ICT4Ag interventions and tools need to be tailored to reach women, as well as men. But how can this be done? Let me share with you 3 key lessons shared and discussed during the session:

  1. A systemic approach to ICT4Ag interventions

Men should not be seen as enemies but rather as entry points. The presenters emphasised that during project design, it was found to be helpful to treat the family as a single entity in addition to having targeted interventions for women.

  1. The Use of Gender-sensitive ICT tools and approaches

Building on the preceding point, selection of ICT tools and approaches should be done together with the community, with a gender lens. It is critical to reflect whether the ICTs to be used in the projects will be accessible, usable, and even relevant to women. Specific efforts should thus aim at making these women-friendly.

  1. Partnerships

Social capital is an asset very few seem to harness. Building trust with communities is key to initiating behavior and attitude changes. On the other hand, building linkages with organizations helps sustain initiatives beyond their lifespan. Thus we need to attach projects to already existing structures like local governments, and local leaders; they are much more a gateway to sustainable development in their area than we will ever be.

It is my sincere hope that the NGO in Mrs Phiri’s area will take time to reflect on these as they roll out their initiative. Much more, I hope Mrs Phiri and other women like her, will not only be reached, but also impacted by this initiative.

Blogpost by Catherine Mloza Banda, Social Reporter for the ICT4Ag.

Mobenzi Researcher-for Electronic Data Capturing

Ishmael Kupatsa collecting data using mobile phone


As part of the Mental Health Integrated Innovation (MHII) Programme, Farm Radio Malawi (FRM) and the Guidance, Counseling and Youth Development Centre for Africa (GCYDCA) conducted a baseline survey in both targeted impact and control areas. The baseline had to meet about 3500 respondents in 15 working days. Breaking down the purposes of the baseline is not my ideal
interest in this write up, but rather share a detailed experience on the deployment of Mobenzi Researcher, a mobile based applications for mobile data collection. Farm Radio Malawi uses Mobenzi Researcher to conduct baseline, here again the tool was leveraged as the data collection and communication platform to form the base on custom logistical, operational and reporting
requirements. Wanting to employ such an advanced technology adventure you require doing whatever you need from scratch like knowing what devices, cheap or high cost handsets you are going to use as long as they support the application. Mobenzi researcher works on a number of Smartphone’s and java based handsets. Nokia E5 is one type of such which FRM prefers.


Mobenzi researcherWe had five of these on our desk and we wanted five more to make a better ratio of enumerators to respondents. Here we go…..five enumerators would result into a good number of days to finish the study hence we had to increase the number of Enumerators to ten. So an expedition to hunt for more Nokia E5 phones was set. Finding Nokia E5 handsets in Lilongwe City was not all that easy as the phones are scarce attributing to its high costs which has resulted to low demand, we could not find it in the major electronic shops. I visited the Indian Business Tycoon where we bought the first five that we used in the AFFRI 2 and CIDA Baseline; he had three only. He admitted that Farm Radio Malawi is the only buyer of this type of phones from his shop and sacrificed to import the remain two from India within a few days, a thing that happened like a miracle but only showed how committed the Indian man is, in doing business. At last we had purchased the five phones making it ten and there we go for the scheduled Enumerators training, which was at least a week delayed to fully set the Nokia E5 phones with all necessary tools for baseline.



Next, we began to think of the software, the Mobenzi Researcher itself, from the ground up, mostly tailored towards research businesses. For a moment, visiting Airtel was ideal to purchase SIM cards and activate Internet on the phones, registering serial numbers for all the phones for security purposes in other cases, in two hours everything was set. Next step was writing Mark and Bart to help in loading the Mobenzi researcher and the survey tool, I had to send a serial number with its corresponding mobile number for each phone and sat all night long surfing the internet using my 3G Airtel Modem while waiting for technological miracles from Canada or Tanzania until 11.00pm when contrary to what I thought, just a link was sent to all the phones in form of a text message, Doing it out right each phone had Mobenzi researcher and the survey tool by midnight.


Since I was already involved in other projects that used Mobenzi researcher, I was already aware the safer and tougher sides of the training, the term MOBENZI itself raises questions, others would think Mobenzi is a type of phone on its own while others thought it’s just another kind of device with the growing technology industry. Nobody had an idea Mobenzi is just an application on the phone; But it was pure luck that we had all necessary documentation and expertise in training enumerators how to use Mobenzi for
every developing project in Malawi following the successful completion of other baseline using the same piece of software in two other projects which did exactly what we needed it to do. The training was successfully conducted in three days and the enumerators were well equipped with all the necessary information and practical experience.


Research team


  1. Allows the enumerator to conduct surveys on a mobile phone.
  2. Surveys are assigned to the phone.
  3. Each conducted survey is stored on the phone until it can be uploaded.
  4. Once it has been uploaded, it is removed from your phone.
  5. Enumerators must always ensure they have the latest surveys on their phone.
  6. Enumerators are always required to check for updates before they leave for the field or when instructed to do so – the more often the better


  1. Mobenzi is both a data collection tool (questionnaire) and data entry tool to a computerized database. It reduces data entry tasks
  2. It is reliable in terms of data validation, the entries are well triggered to its parameters
  3. With Mobenzi you cannot cook data; the ability to capture photographs and location information on supported handsets enhances the validity of data collection and, in some cases, opens up a completely new range of possibilities.
  4. Monitoring progress is one thing enjoying, Mobenzi tracks the timings-how long does one stay with a respondent. With pretests done out right you can figure out how many respondents can be done in a day and figure out how long your study can take considering the number of Mobenzi tools in use and the number of respondents you are targeting.
  5. By tracking mobile phones/serial number of phones as used by enumerators, you are able to monitor how each enumerator is working and assess whether one is properly using the tool.
  6. With Mobenzi you are able to know you have not reached the target as response entries are well tracked in the web-based data server.
  7. Mobenzi requires a stable and reliable internet connection to upload completed survey, but in bad connection, do not feel your headache, as soon as you get to a stable connection the survey is uploaded.


Nokia E5 Handsets with Mobenzi Researcher were provided to each Enumerator, whose role was to collect data using the Mobenzi Researcher application.

Soon after the Training: After doing some study on the Mobenzi tool with the trained Enumerators, we found that, not only is Mobenzi a useful tool for electronic data capturing but it gives out advanced data concepts in capturing and analyzing. We did some pre-tests and were sure we had the phones well set up and communicating with the system server. The pilot testing of the survey was done in three centers. This was very important for us as it enabled enumerators to familiarize with the actual work. It also helped us make some changes to hour questionnaire making sure it was well localized and friendly. It was also an energy builder for enumerators to have confidence in approaching and engaging the respondent throughout the survey.

In the Field: For the first few days of first week, handling of Mobenzi handset was fairly quit for most enumerators, though the experience didn’t change, it was simply because enumerators took their first hands on for actual work with Mobenzi despite the testing. Capturing GPS/locations, continuous photo taking, auto-restarting of Phones due to low memory proved to be unceremonious for most enumerators. Such challenges were overcome and in the later weeks we had no ups and downs.

In the field- Ishmael Kupatsa In the Field-Clementina Pondelani


Mobenzi continues to function; it’s never a rejected stone when it comes to baseline. Data is well centralized and available to authorized project staff for their specific operational, monitoring, analysis and reporting needs in real time. The use of mobile phones as a data collection tool is significant to quality control, data collector supervision that reflect a near real-time view of the progress on the ground, scalability, improved data integrity and resolving connectivity related issues associated with some high end devices as opposed to the mobile phone. Mobenzi researcher is more of engaging and trusted tool by data collectors and respondents. To download this write in pdf please click here

FrontlineSMS is Front-and-Center at Nkhotakota Community Radio in Malawi


By John Mpakani, Reporter, Nkhotakota Radio

Nkhotakota Community Radio Station, along Lake Malawi, is a Malawi Communication Regulatory Authority (MACRA) recognized broadcaster and has been in operation for eleven years – beginning in 2003. Its transmission covers the whole of Nkhotakota and Ntchisi district and parts of neighboring districts of Nkhatabay, Salima, Dowa, Mzimba and Kasungu. More than one-half million people live in the coverage area.
In 2013, Nkhotakota Community Radio emerged as the number one community radio in Malawi after a listenership survey conducted by MACRA found that the station has a 52% listenership on issues of both national and community interest. The survey also found that most listeners contribute to programming of Nkhotakota community radio. Nkhotakota Community radio believes in participatory radio where it gets “feedback” from its listeners and this creates a two-way interaction between the station and its audience.
When we started, Nkhotakota Community radio got feedback through letters and by visiting the communities. Currently, with many communities owning or having access to mobile phones, SMS has emerged as an instant feedback mechanism between the station and its listeners.

Search for a Better Platform
At our radio station we have a research desk. This is where we design programs and evaluate our feedback. Earlier, as mentioned, our main feedback mechanism was use of letters. Community members would write letters to comment or ask some questions on pertinent issues, especially on agriculture, health, climate change and youth programs. They also wrote letters to pass greetings to friends and relatives. Although this is a cheaper way to be in touch, most of the time, the letters arrived so late to our station or didn’t arrive at all, that the voices in the community were not heard.
I started using mobile phones to get feedback from listeners for my radio shows. But still, this didn’t work for me because trying to read SMS messages from my phone while on the air interrupted me and caused me to lose focus. Also, as I read the SMS the scrolling made it difficult to read. I started thinking about a simple way that would allow me to read SMS’s from my laptop when I am on the air. If I could do this, it would help me balance my shows since I could easily read them and not have to scroll and get distracted.

Frontline SMS: The Answer
The idea of using mobile phones in our radio shows to get feedback prompted the search for desktop software that would help us receive and send SMS’s to our audience. We wanted something that we could afford as a community radio station since we don’t have a large budget. Thanks to Developing Radio Partners, we now have FrontlineSMS software and know how to use it. I use it regularly and I have trained the rest of our staff how to use it.
I use FrontlineSMS all the time to get feedback and content ideas from listeners. The communities (listeners) send text messages to comment or contribute towards the making of our radio programming. They also help in contributing content on what they would like us to be doing especially in the agricultural, health and youth programs.
FrontlineSMS has helped us reduce travel costs as we used to have to go out and do audience surveys on our programming. Through FrontlineSMS we learn the listener’s needs and get feedback on our programming trends. By using FrontlineSMS, we receive SMS’s that are well organized by date and I am able to analyze them with ease.
I use one SMS phone number for a number of programs, and I use specific keywords to help organize the received SMS’s without problems. Listeners are informed of keywords to use when sending SMSs.
Sending SMS’s to my followers is another thing I enjoy when using FrontlineSMS because I command many messages at one go and there is no need to monitor things because the system sends the SMS’s one after another. I send SMS’s to remind listeners when their favorite shows will be on air. We are able to do this at the station because we are very much interested in enhancing ICTs in our programming, at the same time, getting feed back from listeners. Frontline SMS technology has proved to be very useful and effective for sending and receiving SMS’s to and from listeners as supplements to radio programs.

The Journey Continues
Recently, we also started airing “Let’s Talk for Change” (Bwalo La Chinyamata), youth program with help from Developing Radio Partners (DRP) which gives youth a chance to ask questions or comment by sending SMS’s which we receive through FrontlineSMS. We also send SMS alerts to the youth reminding them of the broadcast times and informing them of the topics to be covered in our weekly Saturday shows.
In agriculture, we started a program on market information systems after farmers complained that they do not hear local market prices. They asked us why we weren’t providing them with this important information. We started providing market information within two months after receiving this feedback through FrontlineSMS.

The Value of SMS for Radio
Adding FrontlineSMS to radio lets you interact with your audience; it empowers our listeners and improves our programming. For a community radio like mine, SMS mentioned on air, values the listener/ sender as we make him/her part of our show, and they feel honored and a bit famous once their name is mentioned. This attracts other listeners to give their views by sending SMS’s to be read during shows. Hence combining radio with mobile phones makes radio programming more participatory as the mobile phones help us get feedback from listeners. FrontlineSMS gives that magic of receiving and sending, managing contacts and storing “received” and “sent” SMS’s in an easy way and I can also export the information to spreadsheets for reporting.

The Beauty of Nature

The Beauty of Nature

Photo by: Busi Ngcebetsha.