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Experts examine Malawi development

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A group of members of staff and students from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) University in Australia and the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar) has called for the rethinking of development if it is to be meaningful.

Malawi’s development progress is said to have stagnated for decades largely due to lack of a proper focus and long-term vision.

In their book titled Rethinking Development through Study Tours – Interpreting the Field and Negotiating Viewpoints, the academicians observe that development is not just another life-as-usual phenomenon.

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The book was officially launched in Lilongwe on Friday at an event that attracted members of the academia, authors, the donor community and government ministries, among others.

One of the book’s authors, Associate Professor Daimon Kambewa of the Department of Extension Studies at Luanar’s Bunda Campus, urged development practitioners to listen to what the locals say regarding development.

“There are different ways through which people respond to development so, it is important to understand what people’s experiences with development are.

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“It is always important to understand how development is being shaped and how development is supposed to be implemented so that we can see transformation taking place rather than the way we have taken development as just another life-as-usual phenomenon,” said Kambewa.

Chairperson of Luanar Council, James Seyani, who was guest of honour at the event, said the process through which the book has been developed demonstrates that people’s understanding of development cannot be left to one discipline, one culture, one field or one region.

“Our understanding of development requires different viewpoints from multiple sources, including especially the local people themselves through whom any meaningful development has to be undertaken,” said Seyani.

One of the book’s reviewers, Blessings Chinsinga, a professor of political science, said the text is particularly strong in tackling issues of urban poverty which seem to have been sidelined for a long time.

“The book presents an innovative way of looking at development challenges from a different perspective and how to deal with them. It is touching on urban poverty and brings out this conversation which is very necessary.

“It has also tackled issues of food security. Food security is a number one issue in this country. No book on Malawi can be complete without tackling food security,” said Chinsinga

Luanar Vice-Chancellor, George Kanyama-Phiri, said the book is unique because it takes people to another level in dealing with a situation that has never been addressed before.

“For instance, we are able to look at both the urban and the rural development sphere. So anyone who is interested in development will this time consider a balanced understanding of how development is perceived in rural and urban areas,” said Kanyama-Phiri.

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