Joseph, or Rossi, or Nchiza – yes, I could use any of those first names or the surname, it wouldn’t matter – is a very intelligent man. Very quickly after I arrived to Nsanje, Malawi, I got to meet him because he is a close friend of January’s. But it didn’t take long before I realised that he was a special figure. People here are really friendly, no questioning that. Joseph however is full of the Malawian friendliness which is made even more appreciable because he has a very good level of English and perceives more easily my humour.
As I said, Joseph is very intelligent. He is actually very knowledgeable and curious, two great qualities. He is particularly interested in governance issues and describes governance as a “tool to make sure that resources are used properly”. He was trained in state obligations, administration, local governance and resource tracking by a Malawian NGO called Malawi Economic Justice Network. Involving himself in politics is not one of his goals though, but he makes sure that what is promised (by politicians) is actually met by spreading information in areas where people have limited access to it. He claims that people need to hold their leaders accountable. Joseph actually knows his country and its various administrative functions and divisions very well. He is the one who taught me everything about it.
Professionally, he works as the programme manager of an organisation called Tiphedzane (“Let’s work together”) Community Support Organisation. It was created in 2003 by a group of friends – including himself – with the objective of mitigating the impact of HIV/AIDS. Today they have three on-going projects, namely a savings project, an ECDE (Early Childhood Development and Education) project and a climate change mitigation project. According to Joseph, climate change is a frightening issue. Indeed, he doesn’t fail to mention that droughts or floods are a yearly problem that is caused among other things by people who chop down trees on the river banks. But he recognises that the response has to be global since everyone is affected.
Personally, Joseph has 4 children aged 14, 7, 6 and 3. His family is very small compared to others who have up to 10 children. But he still thinks that 4 children are too many. Amusing story, he only wanted 2 but because he and his wife had two boys, and his wife wanted a girl, she got pregnant again. Ironically, they ended up having 4 boys. He only wanted 2 children because he wished to give them as good a treatment as he received when he was a child. Sadly, he feels like he cannot do that properly with 4 children and declares that life is difficult. When one lives in the city, without a farm or livestock, Joseph estimates that one needs at least 60,000 kwatchas (around 160 USD) every month to provide for a 4-child family. But he reminds me that in Malawi – as is the case in many countries of Africa – one also has to think about his/her other relatives since it is the extended family that counts. Unfortunately, Joseph confesses that he is not happy with his life and that having a large family “takes away his sleep”. Yet, as he speaks and becomes emotional, he is always smiling and open-minded, a sign of strength, I am certain.