Empower Malawi: 2012 Reflections
HAPPY new year to everyone! Clock by clock days hide behind the door- 2012 is now last year. It was an exciting year for Empower Inc’s initiative in Malawi, the Malawi project in all aspects of leadership, projects, partnerships and presence.
In January 2012, Empower Malawi, an initiative of Empower Inc successfully filed legal applications for registration in Malawi as a not-for-profit organisation. Empower Limited (company limited by guarantee) was registered successfully under the laws of Malawi with three directors; Shanil Samarakoon, Runil Patel and Jones Ntaukira as its first directors. This was a great milestone and a bold start to the year 2012.
Our January of 2012 was tight and a busy one. We had a strategic meeting for Empower Malawi partners at Mzuzu University in the northern small and rapidly growing city of Mzuzu. Present at the meeting were team members from Mzuzu University’s Training and Testing Centre for Renewable Energy Technologies (TCRET), BEED Ltd (Malawi), our Permaculture consultant Ms Lieza du Preez, Empower Malawi and Empower Inc. The aim of the meeting was to share experiences and map the way forward for 2012. The meeting resulted in one of the biggest milestone for 2012…a Five Year Strategic Plan for Empower Malawi and Partners. This plan is going to be our implementation tool and reference material that can be revised every January with minor follow ups after every six months. In January 2013, we have another partner meeting in Mzuzu.
2012 also saw new partnerships starting. Among the new partnership is the partnership with Earthship Biotecture (USA) to train and help build a community center at Zatuba village in 2013. Empower Malawi received a lot of letters of Interests (LOI) for a possible partnership. This shows that slowly Empower Malawi is getting known and more and more people are getting interested in us thanks to social networking platforms as well as our beautiful website. Cap off to the IT and media crew of Empower Inc.
During the year Empower Malawi got its second paid employee in the name of Bright Msuku, who will be working as assistant project manager. Bright will internee with Empower Malawi for an initial period of six months starting from 7 January before being assigned a position. We are thus thankful to Ben Cole who is sponsoring Bright’s internship.
Zatuba Community Bank
From the humble beginnings- Empower Malawi project in south east Mzimba District started in 2010 a pilot involving only one village of 40 households and a total adult population of 100 men and women and young population of 140 boys and girls. After close to 2 years of working in Zatuba Village, in 2012 the project expanded to cover 38 villages in the wider Kapita Area surrounding Kapita Primary School. This meant that project leadership had to change so that it represents all the 38 villages and this resulted in the setting up of Kapita Development Committee chaired by a woman- Joyce Mwale, a great achievement. Another milestone was the official launch and expansion of Zatuba Community Bank which was the main project handed over to Joyce Mwale and her committee to oversee its establishment which she did successfully. At the end of 2012, Zatuba Community Bank had 7 member villages (fully paid their membership/initial saving), 8 volunteers underwent intensive 5 day training as Bank Tellers/clerks, 30 village representatives were trained in basic bank operations, 24 people had opened bank accounts with customer savings pegged at MK13000, a constitution and official bank operation guidelines were adopted by the community members.
The major highlight in 2012 regarding solar lighting was that 30 volunteers underwent 5 days training in basic solar installation and maintenance organised by our partner Mzuzu University. They will be called rural solar engineers. The best 2 trainees were selected to attend an intensive 2 week course in solar power right at the Mzuzu University campus in January 2013. As part of the training, the participants installed solar electricity at Chief Zatuba Banda’s house and at Kapita Primary School. The 2 places were selected to become demonstration centres for large household solar power. Now both Kapita Primary School and Chief Zatuba Banda’s house have electricity. During our very last project visit of the year in December 2012, we watched TV at the chiefs’ house and for the first time ever I plugged my laptop to household power supply. It was simply unbelievable!
It is expected that 200 solar lanterns will be deployed to the community in 2013 through the Zatuba Community Bank by both Empower Malawi and Mzuzu University thanks to a generous Global Environmental Facility’s Small Grant they acquired through UNDP.
Permaculture and Eco sanitation at Kapita Primary School
Perhaps the major milestone for permaculture and eco-sanitation at Kapita primary School in 2013 was the eco-sanitation training that took place at the school facilitated by our permaculture consultant Lieza. The school management committee, the permaculture committee, pupils, teachers and their parents were trained in eco-sanitation. The result was the demonstration building of 1 Forsa alterna- a type of a composting toilet. It is expected that 4 more composting toilets will be built at the school in 2013 and that the surrounding communities as well as the pupils will adopt the technology into their homes. The humanure harvested from the composting toilets at the school will be used to grow the fruit trees in the school garden and later the school garden will be the source of food to run a meals program at the school to encourage more kids not only to go to school but to remain in school.
The permaculture garden at the school expanded and is already bearing fruits in just 10 months. In the garden, the following plants are grown; bananas, pine apples, sweet potatoes, guava, peach among many others. Bananas have already started bearing fruits and as at December 2012, 3 banana stems have fruits and pineapples were flowering.
300 planting stations were made both within the garden as well around the school. It is expected that in January 2013, fruit trees and shade tree will be planted in these stations.
Thanks so much for supporting self-reliance in rural Malawi! We look forward to furthering our impact in 2013.