Located in perhaps the most dramatic settings of Malawi, our Progressio ICS team have been diligently working our way through the inner and surrounding areas of Mulanje. The past eight weeks have, for many of us, been an extremely steep learning curve, each of us gaining and contributing in different ways. Mulanje Massif is at the heart of all our training and campaigning and being such a crucial source of natural resources, this majestic geological formation sustains the communities that surround it. However, due to its rich vegetation and abundant resources, the mountain is rapidly seeing depletion in certain areas and an awareness of these problems is necessary to ensure a healthy and long lasting diverse biosphere. 

Our team have had the privilege of working alongside two organisations in the Mulanje area, both focusing on sustainable development and conservation, MMCT (Mulanje Mountain Conservation Trust) and WESM (Wildlife Environmental Society Mulanje). Both organisations hold firmly to the belief that their main priority is to maintain the mountain’s biosphere as diverse and prosperous as it can be. Maintaining a healthy balance of inputting and extracting from the mountain is vital for the mountains livelihood. Our environmental aims run in parallel with our partner organisations and to achieve these aims we carried out a varied itinerary of awareness campaigns, peer education lessons in schools, training sessions among youth groups and have also spent time distributing waste bins in response to our messages on waste management. The group that we have been targeting is the youth of the Mulanje and Phalombe districts and all our awareness campaigns have been achieved through youth groups we have been building a close relationship with.

As a team we’ve exceeded all the targets that were set out. Our action research was completed in the form of a village profile, where we visited just under 50 villages. We’ve carried out 4 peer education sessions (compost manure & tree nursery), 1 baseline survey, 4 host home stays, 6 trainings (proposal development, interview skills, marketing & leadership skills), 11 awareness campaigns (HIV/AIDS, waste management, fire management &electricity awareness), 1 resource development on interview skills, participated in the Girls Summit at Namalowe high school as part of the Global Citizenship Day, worked at the Porter’s Race and finally completed a special project where we worked alongside two youth clubs. 

Our special project is one such activity that our team has put in a lot of time and effort into. We decided to split our finances and help two youth groups, Chitapata and Chidziwitso, both just 10km north of Mulanje centre. 

Progressio ICS have been involved with Chitapata since before this present cycle, and returning with our team, we found it to be a well-structured, organised, enthusiastic and diverse youth club. Our team has hosted two awareness campaigns on HIV and AIDS and Waste Management, a peer session on compost manure and training on proposal development and interview skills, all of which were received very well. Despite the strong participation within the community however, we found that they did not have an income generating activity. ICS Progressio have chosen to work alongside Chitapata to support them to develop a bee-keeping income generating activity. Having access to a village forest reserve, we thought this was an ideal location for such a project. 

New and existing skills have been, and will be, built through this process and will provide the group with a sustainable income, which will enable the youth club to conduct further enriching activities. This project has meant an establishment of a new relationship with the youth for MMCT and WESM, and a further village, which they will have connections to. Not only will this activity enhance the entrepreneurial skill set and income of the group but also help them participate in the conservation and promotion of the environmental aspects we have been so strongly trying to convey concerning the mountain. 

Chidziwitso is the second group, which we have chosen to work hand in hand with. Having carried out with them a session on compost manure, our team were impressed with the sheer pro-activeness of the club. Having a building with electricity, Chidziwitso have recognised this as a business opportunity and charge community members to charge phones. With this small profit they have invested the income to rent a plot of land for the season to grow vegetables. This clever use of initiative impressed our team and prompted us to support them in a further one year of rent and equipment to carry on with this activity. 

The impact of this project can not only experienced among the youth but also the Chidziwitso village, it has meant the community will no longer have to travel far to buy vegetables and potential food scarcity in the future will hopefully be met. A further essential impact has been the provision of small stipends to group members for contributing to the project. This will provide a direct economic flow into the community and will hopefully act as a significant boost in the years to come. 

The special project has been one of the most integral and personal targets we’ve had to meet. Integral in the sense that through one youth club, we have the power to reach into an entire community. Through one initiative, our team can help kick-start the youth with an income generating activity that will sustain them and their families for years to come, not to mention the vast skill set that has been honed. And personal in that through working alongside both youth clubs, be it carrying out awareness campaigns together or giving them training sessions, we have come to know them very well and are excited at the prospect of the sheer potential both projects can lead to in the future. 

Written by Team Sapitwa, ICS Volunteers