Community-led Sustainable Development
On the shores of Lake Malawi in the far Northwest corner of Mozambique a community led sustainable agriculture project has developed into an important link between remote communities to provide education, health care and agricultural help to thousands between villages lining the lakes shores in the Lago District of Niassa Province.
The Manda Wilderness Conservation Trust (MWCT) is located in the Northwest corner of Mozambique in the Lago District of Niassa Province and provides specialist resources and logistical help as well as facilitating education to the communiites involved.
On average people living in this area survive on less than $100 a year and rely heavily on subsistence farming, fishing and harvesting timber of various types to sell. The MWCT was founded in 2005 in order to connect remote communities to engage in sustainable development projects. At this time (2018), the MWCT encompasses 16 villages and has developed a strong relationship with the 25,000 people who live there.
A small farm run by 6 permenant members of staff is the base for the Manda project. This farm works as a testing ground for new agricultural techniques that may be implemented and tuaght to farmers who are part of the trust. João Bernado Manyamba (Farm Manager, Agricultural Training Specialist ) (pictured below) and Hilda (Agriculture training specialist at MWAP) (pictured right) travel to an agriculture college in Zimbabwe where they are taught many forms of permaculture and sustainable livestock techniques.
The main focus of the Manda trust is to provide a system for teaching sustainable agriculture to farmers in the communites that are part of the trust. Agriculture building centres in three of these communities allow interaction between Manda and the community much more freely and provide seed banks for the farmers each season.
Once a month the six members of staff go out to the villages who are part of the MWAP and spend a few days with the farmers of each community teaching them permaculture. In this way the projects are always evolving with new information on a regular basis keeping farmers involved and benefiting from the programme.
In the last three years, school gardens have also been built to be used as educational bases. Providing lessons in permaculture to both the teachers and students using the gardens as a practical resource.
The trust have helped fasilitate the building of 16 village schools, providing the funding for 75 percent of all skilled labour needed to complete the project, with the Village Committees negotiating contracts, ensuring that they can afford to pay their 25 percent. While this often means that a school takes between two and five years to build, it gives the village ownership and pride in their school and a vested interest in maintaining and buildings and keeping students in them to persuade the local government to provide the school with qualified teachers. As shown in the images above the schools varry in quality considerablly between villages if they are not maintained and valued in the community they often fall down or are not given basic facilities like tables and chairs for students to use.
The first all girls boarding house in Mozambique was built with the assistance of the MWCT. This boarding house accommodates 40 of the area’s most disadvantaged yet talented young women and encourage much-needed educational development for young women from remote villages who would not otherwise have access to secondary education.
Although simple, the boarding house provides a vital motivation for girls who are currently in the remote villages with no way of continuing their education, with the right guidance they are able to leave their villages and further their education helping flatten the gender inequality that has been a normal way of life until very recently.
Girls who stay at the boarding house are fully self suficaint with solar power and a small area of land to farm, the girls learn to cook and take care of themselves while outside of school.
As well as schools funded by the trust a clinic and maternity ward were also built in Cobué the largest town in the province. These two facilities provide the only health care to 16,000 people with the next closet opportunity for medical help in the next province south.
Doctors are provided by the provincial government and medical supplies are donated by USAID and other NGO’s. crucially Programs are also run by volunteer international doctors training community health volunteers in basic health care, midwifery and HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention.
Because of the remoteness of Cobué medical supplies are early topped up and equipment rarely repaired. For this reason many of the non essential items in the clinic and maternity ward are warn out and are no longer able to be used by doctors and nurses.
One of the reasons for such slow development and lack of support communites by the government is becasue of the remotness of this region. 120 miles South East of Cobué is the closest major town, with only two others much smaller on the way. these are connected by roads unpassable by most cars and only motorbikes and bicycles are able to use these roads. A round trip to Lichinga could take days even if the roads are clear. The easiest way to travel long distances is on Lake Malawi where two small ferries travers the lake once a week. Over crowded and expensive the ferry is an un pleasent way to travel and inconsistencys mean any supplies often takenweeks or months to become available.For this reason many of the residents are fully self reliant which is why it is so important for sustainable land managment and fishing to be taught so people can continue to be self reliant with healthy fertile land and a lake abundant with fish.