Flood Relief Project: Joshua Orphan and Community Care

Joshua Orphan Care
Update on the Stronger House Rebuild Project and Emergency Response – July 2015

The first stage of our project has been research based – seeking technical advice from various experts to know what a stronger home might look like and to explore our approach.  Meetings have been held with the following agencies:  CCode (a housing and homelessness NGO, specialising in slum redevelopment projects), UN habitat, Malawi Red Cross and Red Crescent Society, Malawi government, Habitat for Humanity and Beehive.

Through these meetings, we have also been able to ascertain what other key actors are proposing to do regarding rebuilding and avoid duplication.  For example, the government in Malawi has begun to offer loans to rural residents in some areas – loans for materials for rebuilding houses.  The details are still being gathered but initial understanding is that they will give 400,000 MKW worth of cement, iron sheeting, and other items and people are expected to pay back half – 200,000 MKW.  We are finding out more about this programme, particularly which of our impact areas are being offered this loan.

The housing situation should not be viewed as an ‘emergency’ at this stage – people have all found shelter either with friends, family or in some cases in family sized Red Cross tents.  The approach therefore is a move away from emergency aid to sustainable development model, maximising beneficiary families with the modest funds available.  However, it is key to finish the building phase between June and September before the next rainy season.

Emerging issues and learning to date

The research to date has enabled Joshua to develop a model that incorporates several weather-resistant elements into house design, whilst maintaining an emphasis on the potential for low-cost replication as this has greatest relevance for sustainability of approach.   Weather resistance enhancements include (1) damp proof course (2) door and window lintels (3) passive air ventilation opening above windows (4) reinforcement with brick force wire every 4th/5th course. Cost reduction includes excluding cement in the mortar for building the superstructure walls and then pointing the exterior of these walls to protect them from the effects of driving rain and substituting the soft wood timber members with timber poles.

Food security: We will be commencing the rebuilding stage of this project in a position of emerging severe food insecurity. The gravity of this situation is emerging – most families have not had a decent crop and are looking at a very lean year until next harvest.  Joshua’s Sweet Potato seeds are being harvested now – initial reports suggest 70% survival and yield.  Cassava Crops still have approximately 3 months of growing however yield is likely to be significantly lower as most farmers have reported poor germination and widespread disease.  In addition, late planting and the almost complete lack of rains since February has greatly reduced the seed’s chances.  Maize crops generally have not fared well and reports are coming in that village prices for Maize are already reaching 8,000 and 9,000 (town price is 7,500).  Feedback so far from key community informants suggest that with 10 – 12 months to go before another harvest, food is the number one concern for people at this time looking ahead.   Joshua anticipated this situation and saved some of the funding from its emergency appeal to support ongoing food security in communities where we work.  This will complement the house building and increase community support for both initiatives.

Community consultation: Before we commit to anything, the Malawi team is meeting with community stakeholders in all Joshua impact areas to understand the challenges and priorities of individual families.  This will mitigate negative effects at community level. For example, if Joshua supplies house packs to the most vulnerable, there is a strong possibility that they will simply sell the raw materials in order to feed their families – particularly in light of the growing severe food insecurity situation.  The process of identification of the ‘most vulnerable’ is also a complex task that demands careful planning. We are developing clear criteria of whom the project is targeting for when Joshua approaches community level stakeholders such as the Village Development Committee or the Chiefs regarding house rebuilding.  This will give them a framework which they can then identify beneficiaries within, and will greatly reduce the risk of negative side effects such as jealousy and ill-feeling amongst neighbours.

Participatory Social Mapping: The Joshua team in Malawi has been carrying out a process of participatory social mapping to identify the most vulnerable in terms of housing in the communities.  The rebuilding will focus on supporting families in the Chilaweni area as Pensulo is already getting support from other agencies.   Participatory social mapping has been carried out in 11 villages and beneficiaries identified.

Changes to project since proposal development

Joshua and Children’s Medical Care Malawi also won a grant of £3000 (June 2015) for house rebuilding from Beit Trust/Scotland Malawi Partnership Flood Recover Mini-Grants scheme.  This is enabling us to extend the house rebuilding to more families in Pensulo, Chilingani and Chilawenu.

From late January to April, food security was the priority for both local and government agencies.  The main harvest season has passed and the focus has changes to secure housing.

Next steps and proposed timeframe

a) Artisan Training (July):  Working with CCode, Joshua is providing 3 days theory-based training (14-16 July) training to approximately 40 artisans.  The training will challenge traditional modes of building and explore alternative materials that improve structural integrity, whilst maintaining low cost. CCode are experienced in training local artisans and can still take the lead on this, although content will need to be developed in partnership with others.

b) House construction (July/August) – putting theory into practice.  Each house will take two artisans and five days to complete.  Artisan labour charges are kept low due to provision of training as an incentive to participate.  Representatives from Joshua, CCode and Department of Public Works will site visit each house-build on days 1,3, and 5 to monitor each stage of construction to ensure it meets the Bill of Quantities and design specifications.

Expenditure to date

As the house construction is only just commencing, we are currently in the process of purchasing the materials in the budget.

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