2017: Highlights

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2017: Highlights

January 26, 2018

Greetings everyone! I hope you are having a relaxing end to the year. At our end, another momentous year comes to an end and a HUGE 2018 is soon to fill our horizon. Here’s a quick summary of some highlights from 2017.

1. Conclusion of our partnership with the Kapita region

The roots of Empower Malawi as an organisation started with a 1 village scale project in Kapita (Zatuba Village). By 2012 we had the makings of a regional project, comprising 38 villages and in 2017, our partnership came to a poignant end. Our partnership delivered a wide range of outcomes aimed at improving the regions resilience and capacity for self-reliance. Here’s a brief list of the initiatives we completed together:

  • Establishment of a local community bank – Kapita COMSIP and training 200+ residents in business planning and financial management
  • Establishment of the Mkanako Cooking Oil CooperativeMkanako Cooking Oil Cooperative 
  • Solar access via energy loans to 200 households (triggered large-scale solar adoption in the region)
  • Establishment of the region’s first preschool (including training of staff and a meal program)
  • Construction of an Earthship Community Centre 
  • Training in permaculture at Kapita Primary School and over 4 acres under cultivation for the school’s meal program, including a kitchen with rocket stoves
  • Solar access to Kapita Primary School in partnership with Mzuzu University
  • Rainwater Harvesting and Eco-Sanitation (2 urinals and 5 toilets) at Kapita Primary School

Kapita is one of the most underserved and remote regions in Malawi and we are incredibly proud of the difference we have made. Beneath a wide range of projects, were profound paradigm shifts, as captured in the 3rd party project evaluation that we completed this year. Community members got to assess our performance through a process mediated by a consultancy that we contracted.

We found it difficult to imagine that a woman could sit with her husband and take decisions together about the family. As a result of this project , the women are seated here (in the meeting place) otherwise they would be outside and the men would take the decisions and inform them later. Now, with this project, we feel safe to sit with men and discuss.”

We have phased our exit from Kapita such that there is a strong foundation of knowledge, skills and connections with key stakeholders to support long-term sustainability. While we have no formal activities in Kapita here onwards, our team will continue to check-in and offer informal guidance as we all move forward.

We have learned and grown from our experience in Kapita. A big thank you to all our supporters for making this 5-year partnership possible!

 

2. Expansion to Likoma Island (Nkhata Bay Project)

Our 2nd regional project, in Nkhata Bay, went from strength to strength this year. Most notably, the Timbiri Savings and Credit Cooperative set up a branch of their operations on Likoma Island. Likoma is situated in Lake Malawi and has a population of over 10,000 residents. This bustling island had no access to financial services unless they traveled by ferry or boat to the mainland, that was until the Timbiri SACCO responded to their call. Residents who had come across the Timbiri SACCO in Nkhata Bay were impressed by the community bank and were keen to replicate the model on Likoma.

In a few months, aided by a donated office space and a spirit of volunteerism, a branch was established and functioning. Thanks, in large part, to the use of mobile money, which allows branches to wirelessly transact with each other. This was a major outcome this year, one that is already delivering benefits to entrepreneurs and farmers on the island while boosting the Timbiri SACCO’s own bid to be a self-sustainable financial cooperative.

3. Empower Malawi Strategic Plan

Granted, strategic plans aren’t typically exciting. We think ours is an exception though 😉 In our case, it was a fantastic opportunity to consolidate our knowledge and experience across years in the field and, perhaps more importantly, walk the talk when it comes genuine engagement and empowerment within our organisation. Being small, it was the first time we hired a consultant to ensure greater neutrality and allow all members of the team to have input towards our strategic direction over the next 5 years.

I was thrilled to hear candid feedback from staff with respect to the level to which they felt included in the process.  We unpack the actual content of the plan in this post but in essence, this is what you need to know.

  1. Having reflected on our strengths and impact, we have refined our 5-year project model to focus on two key project levers for impact within a region. One is a focus on developing cooperatives, the second being a focus on permaculture education and practice in schools.
  2. We will be expanding our project portfolio at a rate of one new 5-year project a year. Each region comprising of 30-50 villages (on average). To this end, we have already initiated two projects in close proximity (Lilongwe and Mchinji) as part of our commitment to this rate of expansion.

Now that we have a roadmap, the team in Australia and Malawi are keen to forge ahead! We’d like to thank our tribe for their continued support. Thanks to you, we are now in a position to have a wider impact across Malawi. 2018 will mark the beginning of a new chapter in Empower Malawi’s journey. I’m honoured to play a part and look forward to sharing stories of impact in the new year.

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