Tuesday, December 12, 2006

What am I doing here anyways?

Well so basically everyone (or most people) kind of knows that I am working with Clinton Foundation (CF) here in Malawi and more specifically on the Clinton Hunter Development Initiative (CHDI) but what does that mean really?

Truthfully a lot of things are still getting defined and roles continue to change but this is what I have been up to thus far and hopefully gives a good impression of what I spend my time on and what I will be up to in the future. Also this will probably be one of the few posts that I will talk about work / CF as it is a bit of a political organisation as you can imagine so I hope this will do – but for more info please feel free to email me questions.


I was brought on board with CHDI after the CF and EWB crossed paths via the legendary EWB volunteer Paul Slomp. Needless to say “the slomp’ impressed CHDI thoroughly and another EWB volunteer was headed over to CHDI Malawi to become part of the team.

Inspecting pump with District Water Officer

The concept was to assist CHDI in its rural development initiative program to help define the water and sanitation program and what it would look like. This has been the real first step by the Clinton Foundation into the realm of ‘development’ and as such there are a lot of lessons to be learned.

Within CHDI, I work primarily with two Americans Mina Hsiang (based in Lilongwe) and Lisa Rickert (based in NY) however our team has been growing recently to include Jimmy (American in Blantyre), Jim (Scottish in Lilongwe), Robert & Sarjo (Gambian in Lilongwe), and Dilly (Malawian in Chitipa).


We are working in three very different regions of the country – Nthalire in Chitipa district, Nambuma in Dowa district, and the entirety of Neno district (see map). The regions of the country were selected by the Malawian government and accepted by the CF. These three regions are very different in very many respects (geographically, ethnically, and topographically). From Lilongwe traveling by private car / 4x4 to Neno is about 5 hours, Nambuma 1.5 hours, and Nthalire about 14 hours.

The implications of attempting to implement in these three very different regions at the same time is still being realized.


Within the CF one of the underlying principles is working with and through the government so one of the challenges within this current project is working with the government at different levels to try and deliver sustainable good community outcomes. This typically requires interventions at multiple levels with multiple stakeholders. Currently my main activities are focused at the district assembly level (kind of like the county level for all us Ontarians). I spend the majority of my time in discussions with the district coordination teams (DCTs) outlining what their overall district water plans are, how they will achieve them, what inputs they require, whom will complete what phases, costs, and goals and ideal outcomes.

All these discussions are being conducted nearly simultaneously in all three districts which results in a lot of travel time as I drive between all there districts


The main output from this activity is a document that outlines what the district is planning on achieving and how it will achieve it with respect to their water, sanitation, and hygiene education programs. The idea is that from this document they will be able to implement their programs with a bit of assistance from CHDI. The plan includes but is not limited to: policy and approach and new water points, types of water points (i.e. boreholes, gravity feds, protected springs, shallow wells), hygiene training plan (PHAST), policy on rehabilitating water points, community contracts, district responsibilities, sanitation plan, latrine slab promotion, etc. The document is really district driven and conceived and our real role is to just facilitate and take lots of notes. So basically with any government anywhere this process is taking time. So in between travel times, while in Lilongwe, we spend our time following up on central level issues and typing up the notes and plans from our meetings to be circulated before our next meeting (overall al lot of computer time).

Latrine in Construction


The hoped for near term outcome is a district coordination team that is more capable at creating and implanting a district water plan. In addition, to proving the concept if the government can effectively implement a rural water project and the key lessons that will make this possible.

So basically this is what I have been up to – ‘trying to help the government of Malawi determine what their rural water project will be’. Overall a bit overwhelming at time and always open to some helpful advice or feedback so feel free to provide it if you have any thoughts.

Along with all this formal work with the government there is also a bit of informal work within the CF by trying to push development thinking and some inter-team dynamics.

Hope this helps as a bit of a background.

Take Care and have a great Christmas,