What we do

We work in remote, rural areas of northern Malawi – where 40% of the population live on less than £1 a day, 16% are HIV-positive, and one in three people struggle to feed themselves each day.

Our mission is to develop self-sufficient communities by supporting projects in education, health, agriculture and forestry, and microfinance.

These projects:

  • train villagers in the importance of good nutrition and sustainable farming;
  • plant trees to combat the effects of deforestation and climate change;
  • run mobile HIV testing clinics and establish HIV support groups;
  • promote young children’s literacy skills and fund students through secondary school;
  • provide microfinance loans to budding entrepreneurs.

Our work supports some of the most vulnerable households in the region, such as those which are headed by a female or child, have HIV-positive members, or are hosting one or more orphans.

At the heart of everything we do is our commitment to community-led development: all our projects are developed in partnership with the people we support. In this way, we can work together to break the poverty cycle and create lasting, sustainable change for the future.

Agriculture and forestry

Deforestation is a huge problem in Malawi: in the last decade, over 30% of forests have been destroyed, leading to increasing numbers of extreme weather events, including droughts and floods.

In an area like Nkhata Bay North, where nine in ten people are farmers, the impact of deforestation is huge. Extreme weather events make it very difficult for people to grow enough food to meet their daily needs, leading to widespread hunger and malnutrition.

We run two projects under our Agriculture and Forestry programme: the Nkhata Bay Natural Resource Initiative, and the Nkhata Bay Natural Way, a Big Lottery Funded project which we run in partnership with the International Tree Foundation.

The overarching aim of both projects is to embed community stewardship of natural resources in the district. We work to achieve this by:

  • delivering combined agriculture and forestry training;
  • establishing tree nurseries of saplings which are then planted out into community forests and individual gardens;
  • training farmers in sustainable growing techniques for crops such as maize and potatoes;
  • educating people about alternative income-generating activities, such as beekeeping and fish farming;
  • facilitating access to microfinance loans for individual entrepreneurs;
  • working with local governance structures to ensure local ownership and widespread support for better agricultural and forestry practices.

Together, these two projects equip communities with the skills and knowledge needed to improve their livelihoods whilst conserving the local environment.

Health

In Nkhata Bay North, 16% of the population is HIV-positive – this means that nearly every household is affected by HIV or AIDS in some way.

The area is so remote that it’s extremely difficult for people to access healthcare facilities or receive health education. As a result, many people who are HIV-positive struggle to get the support and treatment they need. Additionally, there remains a stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS, which leads to people avoiding being tested and sometimes not taking medicine.

Our health programme works to address the devastating effects of HIV and AIDS through two projects: Mobile Voluntary Counselling and Testing, and Straight Talking. We often run these in conjunction with other community engagement activities, such as interactive theatre and awareness campaigns run by our voluntary Peer Educators, who are located around the district.

Mobile Voluntary Counselling and Testing

Our Mobile Voluntary Counselling and Testing (MVCT) project helps to create behavioural change by raising awareness of the importance of regular testing, and empowering people to seek help and reduce the spread of HIV.

There are only four health centres in the area, so people have to walk for up to nine hours to get to their nearest services. Our mobile clinics take HIV testing to places which are beyond the reach of regular health services. This increases awareness of and information about HIV and AIDS, as well as enabling people to get tested and therefore treated.

Straight Talking

The Straight Talking project combines two activities: AIDS Action Clubs, and HIV Support Groups. Together, these initiatives raise awareness of HIV and AIDS, and support those who are HIV-positive to live full and healthy lives.

AIDS Action Clubs

We’ve established an AIDS Action Club (AAC) in each of the 40 schools in Nkhata Bay North. These clubs raise awareness of and prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS, bringing together pupils to learn and share information through singing, poetry and interactive drama.

HIV Support Groups

We run eight HIV Support Groups for adults, and four Teen Clubs for HIV-positive young people aged between 15 and 25. These groups meet regularly and provide a space where people can come together to support each other and work to combat the stigma associated with HIV and AIDS. Group facilitators provide advice on good nutrition and how to take medication correctly, as well as information on how to live positively with HIV.

Education

Literacy rates in Malawi are very low: only around one in three adults, and one in five 5-9 year olds, is able to read and write.

This affects people’s future education and employment opportunities, making it harder to break out of poverty.

Early Grade Literacy

To raise the level of education in Nkhata Bay North, our Early Grade Literacy project develops primary school children’s reading and writing skills. We do this through a range of activities, including after school literacy clubs, spelling competitions between schools, and community literacy fairs.

Usisya community library

The community library in the village of Usisya, which we built in 2007, continues to provide the broader community with access to books, educational materials and national newspapers.

Nick Webber Trust secondary school bursaries

Whilst primary school in Malawi is free, secondary school is not, meaning that only 25% of children go on to receive a secondary education. Through our Nick Webber Trust bursaries, we enable secondary school age children to continue their education. The bursaries are given to gifted students from the most vulnerable families who aren’t able to afford school fees.

In the 2016/17 school year, we’re supporting 31 students with school fees, writing materials, transport, uniforms and pocket money.

Microfinance

Most people in Malawi earn money through the informal economy, for example by selling fruit and vegetables, or by doing piece-work and odd jobs. Only 16% of the population is formally employed – meaning most people’s livelihoods are inherently insecure, and it’s extremely difficult to access funding or business loans.

In 2011, we teamed up with Deki, the UK’s first person-to-person microloan scheme, to help entrepreneurs in Nkhata Bay North access microfinance, business training and savings schemes.

The loans are raised by Deki, and then we distribute and manage them. They range from about £20 to £300 and are repaid over a period of 12 months. To date, we have funded over 1,100 new businesses, including tailors, barbers, restaurateurs, grocers, dairy farmers, bakers, and livestock producers.

Providing loans to individuals also has a huge impact on communities. They stimulate the local economy, keeping the money within rural areas, as well as enhancing the life and status of all those involved – both directly and indirectly.

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