In Malawi, CARE is in the process of establishing a programme in the Central Region around Lilongwe. The start-up of this programme had four major phases. First, since CARE had no existing programme in Malawi, a month-long exploratory exercise, or probe, was conducted in May 1997. Stakeholders were met across the country, and visits were made to each of the three major regions: south, central and north. Following this exercise, it was agreed, with government and donor concurrence, that the best area, in terms of unmet need, for CARE to commence programming was in the densely populated Central Region area around Lilongwe (Lilongwe, Dedza and Dowa Districts). An intensive two-week assessment was then implemented in July 1998, following which the synthesis and cause-effect diagram was generated (see Figure C). The assessment activities included secondary data review - much conducted the previous year, but added to more specifically for the Central Region - a participatory livelihood assessment in three field areas, and a marketing study. At the conclusion of these exercises, the combined team developed the cause-effect diagram as representative of the major issues affecting livelihoods, and a hypothetical rendering of the linkages among these issues.
The third phase of the Malawi programme development was a design phase. From the cause-effect diagram and additional information from various studies, an initial programme log frame was developed. This identified four major interlinked programme components, outlined below, from which three major projects have so far been developed and funded.
It should be stressed that although these objectives might seem predictable, what the analysis achieves is an understanding developed through the participatory process of the linkages among the elements. In most instances, development agencies would address the above themes as discrete, unrelated elements. CARE's aim is to overcome the inherent weaknesses and inefficiencies in this. In Malawi, a range of livelihood protection-to-promotion activities is included in the three proposals. The whole institutional framework for the programme is provided by the local-level institution-building activities, which includes the evolution of local structures, which are acceptable to the local traditional leadership, but more democratic in form, through which outside agencies can operate. Cash-for-work activities are based around rural infrastructure maintenance - one project specifically deals with rural road maintenance, and the other two more with small dams activities. Participants in the cash-for-work activities will then be linked into savings groups so that their earnings can be used both for future investment and safety net purposes. Other activities deal more with the intensification of agriculture in key resource areas, such as home fields and wetland areas, and with the development of improved marketing linkages. A final project area dealing with reproductive health will be developed in 2000.
CARE has had several intentions for developing this Central Region programme. The first is that all the programmes together should have a synergistic effect, complementing one another and, taken across the region, having a combined impact on livelihoods. At this point, all the activities have been designed as pilots, being implemented over a two- to three-year period, so the lessons learned from them will be used to develop the next operational phase of the programme.
The second aim of CARE in the design is to work with and complement as much as possible the agencies and activities operating in the region. A detailed stakeholder analysis was conducted during the exploratory probe, and was further developed during the assessment phase, particularly with regard to market linkages. Developing actual operational linkages at a programmatic level has proven to be a slow process. Nevertheless, during the start-up phase the new programme staff are seeking to build these linkages as opportunities allow.
Finally, in its development of the overall Central Region food and livelihood security programme, CARE is also seeking to pilot new models for broader replication in the country. After a lengthy period in the 1990s, when donor programmes were largely of a livelihood provisioning nature - emergency provisioning of food followed up with seeds and tools activities - CARE's aim is to build the programming bridges among consumption provisioning, asset protection and the broader promotion of livelihood improvement. In this sense, CARE's first wave of programmes have been largely negotiated with donors as providing experimental activities, which will contribute to the development of more far-reaching developmental activities. This is especially pertinent given the World Bank's developing a US$30 million annual social safety net programme for the country, which, if not developed in an adequately creative way, could have disastrous consequences for longer-term efforts to rebuild human and resource capacity.
The current phase of the Malawi activities is now that of programme start-up. Key to this is the development of a common programme approach across the different project activities. Here, adherence to a basic set of core programming principles is essential. These include common community institutional capacity-building strategies, adherence to participatory methodologies, common training approaches, allowing materials to be reused or adapted across projects, common indicators and monitoring methodologies and an overall programmatic baseline.