In 2014, the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development in partnership with CONGOMA and the NGO Board of Malawi with support from GIZ, facilitated development of a model Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to guide partnerships between individual CSOs and Local Councils on one hand, and District CSO Networks and Local Councils on the other.
It is encouraging that some District Councils are facilitating establishment of community based organisations (CBOs) at each Village Development Committee (VDC) level. Most of the Councils, particularly in the Southern Region have already facilitated establishment of CBOs. In some Districts, CBOs have formed their own networks which are running parallel to NGO district networks. In other Districts, CBOs have been part of the CSO District Networks. This calls for harmonization.
The reconnaissance of CSO District Networks which CONGOMA has been carrying out since 2013 has vindicated CSO coordination at District level. While there are differences in terms of reasons for setting up the district networks, it is clear that self – coordination is the principle reason. CSO coordination at District level has persistent wide ranging benefits to CONGOMA, which currently has regional structures only. Its lack of presence at District level weakens coordination efforts in various processes involving the grassroots. CONGOMA expects to complete the process of establishing links with CSO district networks by December 2015.
Results emanating from CSO district network activities are encouraging. However, there are gaps that have been noted as some of the policy demands require national level engagement. It is clear that District networks have limited interaction with policy makers at Capital Hill. CSO District Network efforts to take the issues through Sector Networks and an established Sector Technical Forum (a grouping of all Sector Networks) have been pursued, but the process is a bit slow as it faces teething problems.