Our Managing Director and Co-Founder, Jo Hook, shares her highlights, food security updates and project insights after returning from her trip to Malawi last week
I’m absolutely blown away by the work we do, the projects Temwa runs are incredible! I am often so caught up in the day to day operations, I forget to take a step back and look at what has been achieved over the many years Temwa has been operating.
I returned from Malawi last week. While there, I met up with someone who helped me take a step back and remember where it all began, Joseph Chango [cover photo], a lead farmer with Temwa. I first met Joseph in 2004. At that time Temwa was just serving Usisya proper (the central area of Usisya, population 9,000) and only 3 people were growing vegetables. We asked Joseph why other people were not growing vegetables; he couldn’t understand why but people thought they could not do it themselves. At that same time we also asked many community members the same question, they said that the soil was bad, they could not grow vegetables, and it just would not work.
Now, over 13 years later, there are thousands of vegetable gardens all over Usisya proper and all over Nkhata Bay North (NBN, the district we serve, population of 55,000). 90% of the population are subsistence farmers. Temwa works with over 3,500 farmers directly on our sustainable agricultural projects. As a result, with an average of 7 people per household and supporting 3,500 households, we are reaching approximately 24,500 people and ensuring that they are food secure, this is a huge achievement! It’s now the dry season. This used to be an unproductive time as people thought they could not grow anything. However through our work training farmers, there are now thousands of households growing vegetables at this time of year. It really is amazing to see this difference.
Joseph continues to be an inspiration for us and the community, and he is one of more than 100 lead farmers who work with Temwa. Joseph’s garden is incredible and on a daily basis he encourages community members to improve agriculture and forestry, giving advice and simple steps to follow. Joseph reminded me of how small Temwa was in the early days, how much Temwa has grown and how big the impact is now! It was a real joy to catch up with him having not seen each other for a few years.
July/August is a good time of year to return to Malawi as people have harvested after the rainy season ended in April. Overall, the 2017 harvest was much better than the 2016 harvest and people are more food secure. Yet, there were problems with a pest, the stock bolla, meaning that some people had a poor harvest. The good news is we are finding more ways to improve food security. When I visited Malawi in January, our rabbit breading training was underway. Now over 6 months later people have got 6/8 rabbits, and in another 6 months they will have 12 or more rabbits! This basic concept will dramatically improve people’s food security as they wait to harvest. Between January and April, the rabbits will provide an income when they sell them as well as a food source.
For our health programmes in 2017, we are supporting 40 schools by creating and supporting AIDS Action Clubs in these schools. The AIDS action clubs have over 800 weekly participants, who are guided to know everything there is to know about HIV and AIDS by the hard-working peer educators (there are 27 peer educators in NBN). This year, we have already tested 750 individuals through our HIV clinics and testing services. There are also 12 support groups for HIV positive adults and teenagers. More widely, we are running community education projects on HIV & AIDS, already reaching over 3,000 people in 2017; and we have implemented a pilot project with CCAP Smart Centre on water filters to prevent water contracted illnesses, which has been really successful.
I am really proud of our whole team and all the work that we do, Kondwani Both is a fantastic Programme Manager who is doing a great job of leading the team. The Temwa UK and Malawi teams focus on ensuring that everything we do continues to be community driven and community lead. However, while our programmes are running successfully, there are still many future challenges for our communities and we have to keep the projects running. I’m deeply concerned about the rivers running dry and we will be designing and find funding for a project to tackle this issue.
It is also incredibly hard to keep the funding going to keep Temwa running and we always need more support to serve the communities. In the UK, Malawi as a country and Africa as a continent get very little media coverage, most people in the UK have no idea of the challenges people face in Malawi. The 2016 food crisis that severely affected southern Africa was shamefully ignored. This lack of media coverage makes it very hard to get across the importance of the work that we are undertaking. We hope this blog and our media provides you with some insight into the daily challenges people face and we are working with them to build more sustainable futures. So please if you can, help us keep this vital work going by, setting up a monthly standing order or giving Temwa a donation , taking part in a sponsored challenge and coming to an event if you are in Bristol! Or, if you have any other ideas as to how to help Temwa, do feel free to contact me [email protected] we’d love to hear from you.