The Story Workshop
Educational Trust - SWET

Mwana Alirenji

Mwana Alirenji

Mwana Alirenji is the name of a farmers Radio Magazine programme that was produced by Story Workshop in Malawi. Mwana Alirenji, a common Malawian expression means ‘there is nothing a child can cry for when food is plenty’. The program aims to attain food self-reliance among small-scale farmers in rural Malawi.

With the popularising of this concept through this radio magazine, many farmers in Malawi are now striving to break the prevailing hunger and dependency so that they too can come to be known as Mwana Alirenji farmers. This weekly half-hour farmer-to-farmer radio magazine was broadcast nationwide on national radio, Malawi Broadcasting Cooperation (MBC) Radio One with funding from the European Union (EU). Mwana Alirenji was launched by Story Workshop on September 1, 1999.

Many farmers were aspiring to become Mwana alirenji farmers since self- sufficiency at household level brings happiness in homes and peace in society, which Malawi is striving to achieve. This is what Marko Wemba, of Njale Village, in area of Chief Kalembo in Balaka district in October 1999 said;

To me, ‘Mwana Alirenji’ means a person or family that has plenty of necessary food items available. Such a person should have livestock as well as different crops and fruits. If you have enough food at home, you spend less money, you have a stable family and you gain respect from members of the community.

The concept of Mwana Alirenji instils a sense of pride and vision among farmers and this adds new meaning to farming, which has for a long time been perceived as the primitive way of earning a living. The programme has been popular all these years and has greatly impacted on the people of Malawi. The major methodologies used to assess the impact are audience feedback letters, the reporter’s interviews and action research by the monitoring and evaluation teams.

Mwana Alirenji has been taking different angles depending on the feedback from the listeners. For example, from January 2008, Story Workshop began Mwana Alirenji, project funded by the European Union. The project spanned Malawi and run for 42 months, focusing on Food Security, using village festivals, radio magazine broadcasts and Video documentaries

The main activity of the campaign was Food Security Festivals in 78 villages across Malawi; to improve environmental sustainable farming, increase capacity and improve health. These festivals involved Story Workshop team traveling to a village and staying in the community for several days. The first 15 villages visited were existing sites for Story Workshop clubs and there after villages across Malawi nominated themselves for participation.

The Story Workshop team provided the village with a ‘menu’ of potential activities for the community, of which they were choosing a few to address their specific needs. A village goal was decided between the Story Workshop team and the village, for example to expand the range of crops produced, and this goal was used to formulate a community plan over the festival.

The project brought about improved environmental sustainable farming, improved health and increased capacity in 78 festival villages in Malawi and adoption of improved practices by the general rural population.This was achieved through food security festivals where communities learnt different improved farming techniques and improved food utilization and hygiene and sanitation practices. During the three year period, food security festivals were conducted in 68 villages with a detailed report for each food security program produced. Each report highlighted the key activities carried out as well as key lessons drawn. Through the exercise community members were also willing to work together and participate in different exercises.

Mwana alirenji won the 2010 ALINe Farmers Voice award as the best Interactive Radio Project basing its prouction on the feedback from the audience. Mwana Alirenji was once voted on number 4 on MBC's entertainers of the year awards. The producer of Mwana Alirenji, Gladson Makowa, also won the best Agricultural journalist in Africa Carribbean and Pacific Region by CTA-EU in 2009. In the same year, the producer won the Farm Radio International George Art Kins Award.