Resilient & Secure Rural Communities

Location: Mzimba and Rhumpi districts, northern Malawi
Duration: Ongoing
In partnership with: Small Producers Development and Transporter’s Association

The prevalence of extreme poverty in rural Malawi is devastatingly high. Over 70% of the population lives on less than $1.90 a day. That’s to pay for everything – food, accommodation and clothing, just for starters.

These vulnerable households have been facing an additional problem in recent years.

The climate has become more unpredictable, in that rainfall has been coming at unusual times in unusual amounts, causing drought and flooding.

Nearly all families grow their own food to survive, so many are experiencing long periods of extreme hunger every year, on top of being unable afford other everyday essentials to sustain life.

We are coming alongside households to help them to become resilient – able to continue improving their welfare despite these climatic challenges.

What we’re doing about it:

With our partner SPRODETA and the support of local government, we are coming alongside households to help them to become resilient – able to continue improving their welfare despite these climatic challenges. We are using three powerful interventions:

1) Agricultural training. Families are learning to grow crops to eat and to sell in a context of drought and flooding, using sustainable agricultural techniques, which conserve water and biodiversity. They are also learning to tap the irrigation potential of the area, so that crops can be produced year-round.

Chickens are also being distributed to the most vulnerable households. These not only provide a source of nutrition, but breeding poultry enhances household financial resilience. Chickens are like cash in the bank, and can be sold to meet needs as they arise, such as a food shortage or medical bill.

2) Informal financial services – Village Banks. Imagine if you were dependent on the food you were growing in your garden for the survival of your family. What would happen if the majority of your crop got washed away, or the whole lot was eaten by hungry caterpillars? What would you do?

It would be a relief if you at least had a bank account with some money in it to help get you through the year.

We’re providing community members with the training to set up their own mini financial institutions, so that they have a place to save small amounts each week. The accumulated funds could be used to see them through a difficult time, or to invest in business activities.

Because Village Bank users can borrow money from the pooled savings of members, which is repaid with interest, they typically earn interest on their savings of over 35% over a 9-12 month period!

3) Coordinated disaster response. Civil Protection Committees are being formed and trained in each area. They are responsible for working with local government and NGOs to ensure that in times of crisis, emergency aid is distributed fairly and effectively, reaching those with the greatest needs.

This helps to enable some of the poorest households to maintain some capital, like livestock or some savings, so that they are not pushed right back to square one by natural disasters.