CAREER OF THE WEEK
Malawi being a developing nation, there are a lot of developmental projects that various governmental and non-governmental organizations are conducting day in day out.
For all these to be successful, Monitoring and Evaluation Officers become handy. Thanks to EM, this week we are focusing on understanding what this profession is all about.
- Guest: Humphreys Rabson Kapito
- Firm: Wildlife and Environmental Society of Malawi (WESM)
By Franco Mwachande Jnr
I come from Nkhonya village in the area of Traditional Authority Chikumbu in Mulanje district. I am the first born in our family which has three boys. Born on 16th August in 1979, I was raised in a pastors’house because my late father was a Church Minister of the CCAP Church of Blantyre Synod. I am married to Gladys and together we have three children, sons Chimwemwe and Maziko and a daughter Chisomo.
Brief Academic journey
I attended four different primary schools because my father was being transferred from one station to another. These are Mphande primary in Mwanza, Balaka primary school in Balaka, Pasani Primary school in Mulanaje and Chigumula primary school in Blantyre. It was at Chigumula that I was selected to Saint Patrick’s Secondary School in Mzedi, Blantyre in 1992.
I scored good grades, but due to few University space those days, I did not make it. Instead I enrolled with the University of Malawi, Management Development Centre where I did a Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) professional certificate and diploma.
I later joined the Columbia Commonwealth University where I graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) in Strategic Management. Currently, I have just enrolled for an online Masters in Business Administration.
Brief job description
My job involves being responsible for designing and implementing project monitoring, evaluation, research and learning activities. The MERL also manages the Management Information System (MIS), ensuring accountability to the project stakeholders including the funding agency and targeted beneficiaries. I also ensure that the programs are on course towards its planned inputs, outputs, outcomes and impact.
Is the profession that rewarding?
A big yes, the career is rewarding. With so many projects mushrooming in all corners and the need for impact measurement, there are many MERL opening around. Beyond the financial rewards, the biggest reward we get is the satisfaction one gets after a long journey of project planning, implementation and monitoring to a point where a visible change is attained in the communities. There is no feeling that beats this. I am further motivated by my passion for Malawi especially the rural poor communities who really need our support to transform their lives.
Brief professional journey
My professional journey has been long and winding. I started as an Association Field Officer in Zikometso Smallholder Farmers Association in Mulanje, and later became a Crop Production and Marketing Manager for the National Smallholder Farmers’Association (NASFAM) before becoming the Business Manager.
I later worked for the Malawi Rural Development Fund (MADEF) as a Senior Credit Officer before my current job with the Wildlife and Environmental Society of Malawi (WESM) where I am the Monitoring, Evaluation, Research and Learning Officer in the FISH Project since 2015. Of course, I have also did a lot of part time training and management consultancy through Centre for Corporate Management (CCM), a consultancy that I established in 2010.
Is this your childhood dream?
The answer is yes and no. Yes, because I wanted to be of service to my country. No because I originally wanted to be a marketer which of course I am, but my exposure to rural communities changed my heart and I got so touched and drawn into serving the communities.
Through serving on different projects, I discovered the depth and height of poverty in Malawi. I also learnt how rural communities are committed to participate in different project most of which make very little impact on their lives because of top down approaches and lack of accountability. This motivated me to be more impact driven in project operations and I developed special interest to study short courses in Agricultural extension, project management, monitoring and evaluation among others. When an opening came up in WESM, I picked it and never struggled to settle down because I had some experience in project management and working with rural communities.
Source of inspiration
I am always indebted to my former school, St Patrick’s’ Secondary School. It’s a school that taught us holistically, transforming our mindset, inculcating a culture of responsibility, standards and patriotism. Since then, I always have a strong feeling of responsibility for the society. Year in year out, millions of US dollars are spent on various projects, but the success of the projects is not on the budget, but rather the change that it makes. No wonder someone defined work as force times distance, meaning without a movement of the peoples’ lives from one position to another there is development. My role as a MERL significantly contributes towards this.
Just like any profession, monitoring and evaluation has its challenges. Monitoring and evaluation becomes challenging when there is lack of ownership for the project monitoring and evaluation processes and results among the implementing team and the MERL officer is seen as the sole owner
Secondly, every project is a new project meaning the monitoring and evaluation requirements vary from donor to donor hence a continuous learning process that requires a lot of flexibility. Thirdly sometimes monitoring and evaluation is mistaken for witch hunting which is not the case, adequate orientation and team work is able to solve this challenge.
Entry point into the profession
One can become a Monitoring, Evaluation, Research and Learning Officer the basis is a relevant Bachelor’s degree in social sciences, development studies, statistics, project or strategic management or a University diploma plus some project management experience.
Where one can train to be MERL officer?
There are several institutions of higher learning where one can study to become a Monitoring and Evaluation Officer locally. The University of Malawi, Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR) and the Catholic University are some of the institutions.