This month we have a guest blog post by our partners Matt and Wendy Napier (Walk to a Better World)
We recently had the opportunity to visit some of Empower’s projects in Malawi and see first-hand the work they are doing to empower local communities.
Our trip started with a tour of Empower Malawi’s very humble office in Lilongwe, where we had a chance to talk to Jones about the results achieved at Kapita (now towards the end of its 5 year project), the progress of the Timbiri SACCO and also to learn more about Empower’s new business Zuwa Energy. Looking forward to seeing how that grows over the coming years to not only provide the organisation with a reliable source of income to cover its administration costs but also to provide access to solar energy to some of the more remote communities in Malawi.
We then spent a day with Jones visiting Kapita in Northern Malawi and seeing first hand some of the initiatives that were achieved in the region. It was great to be able to go back to the community of Kapita. Wendy and I first visited this community in 2013 when we were part of an international volunteer team that helped build the first few rooms of the community centre as part of the Earthship project. Since then the community has finished the outer structure of the remaining rooms and hope to have the whole structure finished by the end of this year. The completed rooms are being used as a community bank, a nursery school and a storeroom. Unfortunately, as it was during the school holidays, we were not able to see the nursery but we have followed its progress since being established a few years ago. It is great to know that with a little bit of help to cover the cost of training teachers and some initial equipment this nursery school is now fully community-owned and operated on a sustainable basis through the charging of a small weekly fee to parents.
We also visited the Kapita Primary School where we were given a tour of the composting toilets, rain harvesting system, meals program and permaculture garden. Never thought we would find toilets so fascinating but it is great to see how they improve sanitation whilst also providing quality organic manure for the permaculture garden that surrounds the school. Along with the rainwater harvesting system that enables them to store water during the wet season and extend the growing period of fruits and vegetables in the dry season, the school is now able to provide a nutritious meal to the students on a regular basis. The permaculture garden will also supply the school with a wide variety of fruits including bananas, oranges and pineapple once the trees are established as well as maize for porridge which will be prepared in the newly constructed outdoor kitchen and provided to the learners every morning.
A few days later we visited the Timbiri Community SACCO in the north-east of Malawi on the road between Mzuzu and Nkhata Bay. The Timbiri SACCO is a savings and loan institution set up to provide locals with access to affordable savings and loan facilities (similar to a member-based credit union or bank here in Australia). By becoming members the local community is able to save for future needs and also have access to short-term loans that allow them to expand their businesses. We met one lady who ran a local general store but wanted to improve her income by breeding chickens so took out a loan from the SACCO. She was able to repay the loan with the proceeds from the chickens and now is saving up to expand to also breeding chickens for egg production as well as meat. The SACCO also provides business advice and support to help local farmers find markets for their produce and to form cooperatives for better outcomes.
It was great to see first-hand the initiatives that Empower Projects have facilitated and how they are improving the lives of those living in those areas. There is a great sense of hope for the future and we look forward to being a part of Empower Projects’ future projects in bringing permaculture to Schools in Malawi.