Our team of 10 UK volunteers arrived in Rumphi, Northern Malawi, on the 10 July, ready and excited to start work with the local environmental and agricultural organisation, SPRODETA (Small Producers, Development and Transporters Association). After the first few days of settling into our host homes, we began work with our lovely national volunteers. Together, we decided to name our team ‘Mapiri’, which translates into Chitumbuka as ‘mountain’, inspired by the fact that Rumphi is situated in a small, green valley surrounded by the most majestic mountains. Our obsession with the mountains is a great source of amusement to the locals, however the novelty of opening our front doors in the morning to see the sun rising over beautiful towering mountains has still not worn off. 

On 15 July, Team Mapiri went to the neighbouring village of Kalindamalaro to start digging a community fish pond. The group was welcomed by the community who showed great interest in the project and in our work as volunteers. Also, the group was so happy to meet people of the community and to work together to learn from one another. 

The community was happy when SPRODETA introduced the project to them. They said fish is good because it is the source of food which gives them proteins for their health and also it is a source of income. The only challenge they are facing is that the land is so hard to dig during dry season and they do not have the resources or the time to do so.

On 16 July, the group went to the Group Village Headman Kavipichi to monitor the trees. The village was given seeds, such as oranges and paw paws, to plant around their homes and other trees, like blue gum, to plant in their farms. The community said that fruit trees are important because the fruits are a source of vitamin C and also it helps them to earn money after selling them, helping themselves with basic needs in their homes. 

The main challenge that the community is facing is that the trees are being eaten by the termites because they lack water since this year there has been very little rain. 

On the 17 July, the team went to supervise and monitor the standards of goat kraals at the Group Village Headman Chibalazi. The village was given 12 goats by SPRODETA, distributed to six farmers who were either elderly or suffering from a chronic illness, such as HIV, and who they felt cannot manage to meet their basic needs in life. 

The beneficiaries were extremely appreciative to have been given the goats and have said that they will use them purposefully to gain an income, and also to use as a source of food. SPRODETA is also working to rebuild and improve the existing kraals and also to build new ones in which to house the donated goats. It is important that the goats have raised, covered kraals in which to sleep during rainy season so that the floods do not affect the health of the goats.

A nicely built kraal

On 21 July, small scale irrigation was promoted at Group Village Headman Kavizombo, whereby there was manure making together with the community. In Kavizombo and many of the rural farming communities in Malawi, artificial fertiliser is mainly used, however this is expensive and can be harmful for the environment and possibly the farmer’s livestock. Therefore, it is important that the use of manure is promoted as a more suitable alternative. The community members who attended the training session were surprised to see how little this kind of natural fertilizer costs to make (only dry grass, animal faeces, bricks, wood and water are required). Manure is important because it helps farmers who have no access to money to fertilise their crops.

Promoting manure as a fertiliser

On 22 July the team went to design the car park. SPRODETA thought it wise to design and construct the car park near the market shelter because the cars were just passing by as there is no proper car park.  Therefore, business will grow and the economic success of the market shelter will increase.

Site for the future car park

Team Mapiri is now going in to their third week living and working in Rumphi and we are all feeling positive about what lies ahead in the coming weeks as we continue our work with SPRODETA. Both the national and UK volunteers are each day learning countless new skills, gaining knowledge and building all-important relationships within the communities we are working in- whether it is developing our language skills (both Chitumbuka and English), dancing with the locals in the villages of Kalindamalaro/Mthuzi, learning how to hang a beehive or attending training sessions on HIV and AIDS mainstreaming. 

Written by ICS volunteers Charlie Rodrick and Maria Mkinga