Being young and looked down upon gave her wings to prove that her mind was matured enough to lead, no matter age or experience. She is Kufasi Shella Mughogho, chief land resources and conservation officer in land resources conservation department of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security. She talks to Paida Mpaso:-
Tell us about your family.
We were four, now we are three after we lost our sister. I am the eldest. We grew up loved with dedicated Christian parents. My dad was an engineer with CEAR then Malawi Railways. My mom is still a secondary school teacher. They did not have much but gave us their best.
I remember the Saturday family breakfast where our parents sat with us all and made us eggs and toast. I grew up in Blantyre. I cherished the trips to the village in the North. We had fun. We always had a cousin or aunt staying with us. That made our family big and even more fun! My ambition was to be a teacher!
What are the challenges that you have faced while growing up?
Every woman goes through heartbreak at some point in this life. But with God, we move on. There has never been a night so long that the next morning did not come. The Bible says a righteous man shall fall seven times and rise up again, but I say a woman shall go through seventy heartbreaks, but she has to rise up from them all.
Would you elaborate on the heartbreak?
Ha ha ha! Women love hard. You know sometimes we love too hard and then the guys take advantage of us, and before you know it, they have already paid and checked you into heartbreak hotel!
How did you find yourself in this field of conservation since you wanted to be a teacher?
I studied agriculture, with a major in forestry. I decided to work with ministry of agriculture. The department that could take someone with my qualifications was land resources conservation, and I eventually got addicted to it.
What qualifications do you hold?
Masterâ€™s degree in Integrated Water Resources Management from University of Zimbabwe; Bachelor of Science in Agriculture from Bunda College; MSCE from Stella Maris Secondary School; and PSLCE from Chichiri Primary School.
You are only 35 and yet you have managed to become the chief land resources conservation officer, how did you rise to that position?
I must say it is by the grace of God. I have had to work hard and fight through seasons of failure and use them as lessons for moving forward. I started at professional officer, which is PO and have moved through P8, P7, and then to P5. Many loving people have mentored and encouraged me to come this far.
What does your job entail?
Interpreting the Land Resources Conservation Policy and its related policies as they relate to land and water management in the country; capacity building of staff and farmers; collaborating with non state actors in issues of land and water management.
What challenges have you had to come across for you to be in that position?
When I first started working in the Department, there were many older people who were under me. It was not easy to work with such people. Secondly, people have an attitude that when you work in government, you can be lazy and do things at your own pace. I had to fight against joining such tendencies. The worst challenge was when at some point I was denied my entitlements just because I was the â€œyoungerâ€ one.
What advice would you give to women holding such high positions?
We are never perfect but we can be excellent. Donâ€™t compete with the men, you do your job, the men do their job, nothing will go wrong. Sometimes we spend so much energy fighting men instead of using that energy to develop ourselves.
How have you worked with the rural communities in conservation agriculture and what are its benefits to a country like Malawi?
Communities are encouraged to adopt conservation agriculture as a multifaceted technology. I work with them through the frontline staff (alangizi akumudzi). Conservation agriculture manages the agriculture land and the environment; improves and stabilises yields; and with time reduces their production costs. With climate change, it in an indirect insurance against total crop failure especially with reduced rainfalls.
Is Malawi winning the battle against climate change?
Climate change is like a war that has many battles with different combinations of soldiers. Some of the battles are being won, others are being lost. Malawi would do well if it had one Major General to command all the battles that are being fought. Currently, each group of soldiers is fighting their battle at their small corner and the efforts are disintegrated.
The best way is to let the farmers see and appreciate the best practises they can adopt themselves. Demonstration plots have been raised across the country so that the conservation agriculture can be learned through observing.
Are you married?
Am not married yet. But my sister died and left four kids, I am now taking care of three of them.
How have you directly contributed to the development of this nation?
I was part of the team that pioneered the formation of the National Conservation Task Force. I was the one who trained the first core team of agriculture extension staff in conservation agriculture. We produced the Rainwater Harvesting Manual. I have mentored several children to go to school and paid part of their school fees. I have also contributed towards the construction of several church buildings.
What challenges are you facing in your current position and how are you overcoming them?
There is too much going on but not for public consumption.
What kinds of food do you like eating? And the type of attire you love?
I eat anything! Chinese food makes me crazy. Local food is easy to cook so I usually go for that. Attire: anything bright that does not make me look like a drama queen!
The virtuous woman
Retracing the life of Deborah
In this article, we will endeavour to look at one of the processes that make a leader â€“ â€˜Thinking ahead of othersâ€™. In everything Deborah did, she thought and planned well before execution. For example, Deborah did not simply tell Barak to fight; she furnished a plan for his attack, and then accompanied Barak to the battle. Result â€“ overwhelming victory. How could the people not respect a leader of such strategy and vision? In zeroing on this, let me direct your attention to one of the five levels upon which Deborah exercised her authority: Level of Position.
Titles or job descriptions provide the lowest level of leadership. People follow leaders only because they have to. That is where Deborah began â€“ as a prophetess. The book of Judges aptly described Deborahâ€™s entry as such in Chapter 4 : 4. And indeed, this is where we must all begin.
But leadership that stays on this level, with time, becomes weaker and not stronger, leading to manipulation and control. Leaders who want others to follow simply because they are the boss soon lose respect. Unfortunately, many a times most leaders fail to progress from this level of leadership. Their seemingly lack of control propels them to be even more calculating, conniving, building cliques instead of bridges, in order to â€˜protectâ€™ their position. Havenâ€™t you heard such comments as â€˜you must do as I say because I am commanding or ordering you in my position as â€¦â€¦?â€™
Notice how the language even changes â€“ from leading to commanding! And virtuous woman, you know the result â€“ the focus now becomes you and not the people you serve! Let us thank God for the titles we have, e.g. CEO, Managing Director, Team Leader, Chief, Pastor, etc. etc. but I pray we will not be ensnared with the thought that just because a title has been vested upon me that I am a great leader. A title does not make you a leader. You need other elements like trust, inspiration, etc.
Four other levels are permission, production, people development, and personhood.
Which level are you on leadership?