Partners helping Malawi overcome its challenges - Blesco Nyangulu

Scots and international partners are collaborating with my determined community in Malawi, which is co-ordinating the skills of charities to help improve the life chances of our young.

Tafika is a volunteer youth organisation in Ekwendeni, Northern Malawi operating in 545 villages, focused on Education to improve children’s futures. In Malawi, we must overcome multiple interconnected challenges so we made a plan with Edinburgh-based pro-bono consultancy, Zambia and Malawi Community Partnership (ZMCP) .

Many of our children don’t have enough to eat and hungry or malnourished children are less likely to walk many miles to school and have reduced concentration. We knew there was enough land and labour locally, but there was no money for fertilizer and seed. NGO Nourishing Minds provided funds for this and Tafika persuaded the Head Men to designate land.

We set up mothers’ groups, youth groups and organised the communities who then grew and milled the crops. This model worked for five communities, and Scottish charity Mary’s Meals partnered with us to enable five more to grow diversified crops for daily school meals. Mary’s Meals is also funding cash crops which could cover costs in coming years. As you read this, the first crops are being harvested, resulting in more than 4,000 children being fed every day.

Successfully overcoming hurdles for access to education and better future

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Our schools had no clean, safe water, so we turned to NGO FormidableJoy. Formidable Joy drilled new boreholes and repaired broken pumps, put in by others, which are now benefitting schools, villages, and a health centre. They added wheelchair ramps and trained women in our community to maintain and fix boreholes. Prioritising future Mary’s Meals locations, in a joined-up approach, this work benefits 21 communities and many thousands of people.

But how to ensure our children’s meal contained the necessary vitamins and minerals? Enter HarvestPlus, part of the international agriculture research group CGIAR. They are making available to underprivileged communities, nutrient-dense staple crops, known as biofortified crops, using modern non-GMO breeding techniques. The adoption of these new crops which contain three micronutrients essential for every child’s development, calls for a cultural change for us and we are working with HarvestPlus to encourage uptake.

Some of our communities have no school buildings and pupils have to learn in the shade of trees. Scotland-based NGO, Classrooms for Malawi built three classrooms with Tafika helping supervise construction. Without chairs and desks, the children were still sitting on the floor. We are enabling some older students to learn carpentry skills at college and looking for a source of funds for them to be paid for their work. The students will initially trade their work for recycled carpentry tools, donated by Balerno Village Screen and Scottish Men's Sheds Association. Our long-term partner, Scottish charity The Bananabox Trust, will provide the containers to transport the tools.

Our local communities experience increases in early pregnancies and a listlessness in our youth. To give them more purpose and focus, we set up the Tafika Sports Academy. There are positive results, with the U14 boys achieving roughly twice the class performance in national exams, and we now have many teams and are providing a pathway to the national squads in netball, football and volleyball. One Tafika girl has even been selected for the netball team representing Malawi in the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham!

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Young people at Tafika, a volunteer youth organisation in Ekwendeni, Northern Malawi.

With support from major donors of sports equipment; Bananabox Trust and Smileawi, we would love to find netball and football clubs in Scotland to partner with Tafika. If your club can help please contact us through our partners ZMCP at [email protected]

For further information and to watch Blesco addressing the Scottish Parliament’s Malawi Cross-Party Group: click here

Blesco Nyangulu, Programme Manager, Tafika

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