While working in Malawi eight years ago, Irish Pharmacist Christina Lynam was shocked at the conditions in Kaphuka Village, which is situated 45 km outside the capital of Malawi, Lilongwe.
The only source of water for the 15,000 villagers was two water pumps and one open borehole situated 12 km away from the village. Food consisted of almost exclusively ensema, a porridge like food made from maize. There was little protein in the diet and villagers resorted to eating mice which believe it, or not, is a source of protein.
Although the land is fertile, the villagers lack tools and basic agriculture knowledge. Trees have been cut down for firewood to the extent that the environment is at risk. There were no grazing animals or livestock. The dirt track leading to the village is impassable in the rainy season. Truly a forgotten people.
Christina set up the Kaphuka Village Project to empower the women of the village to improve the lives of all villagers. In 2004 the Project was partnered with Irish Aid Agency Bóthar for the supply of animals to the women’s committee which was specifically formed for training the women in the care of the animals.
Cara Malawi, an Irish based charity, was formally launched in 2006.
Over 300 families to date have received animals, vaccinations, seeds for crops and fertilisers. The first female offspring of the second generation of animals are passed on to the next woman farmer on the waiting list for animals. The “Handing Over” ceremony is an annual event in the life of the villagers.
In the early years Cara Malawi worked in conjunction with Malawian Aid Agency, Small Scale Lifestock Partnership Program, and a full time veterinary assistant was employed to assist in the training of villagers in animal husbandry. Today the trained villagers, mainly the women, pass on their knowledge to other villagers and oversee the allocation of Milk Goats and Meat Goats and Pigs to other villagers on the waiting list.
Extract from BBC News Report July 2007
” A recent World Bank report says the number of people dying from Aids is on its way down in many African states, including Rwanda, Zambia and Malawi.
And it is not just health programmes that are turning the situation around. The government and foreign aid groups are also creating new ways to wean poor Malawians off hand-outs and make them more self-reliant.
In Kaphuka, a village about 2 hours south-east of Lilongwe, an innovative livestock scheme has been set up by a charity called Cara Malawi.
Instead of simply handing out food, selected women in the village are given live goats or chickens, which provide milk and eggs.
After a year or so, those inhabitants hand over one of the animals’ offspring to a neighbour, who can then fend for themselves in a “pay-it-forward” manner.
Though these schemes are innovative and provide a practical way of allowing extraordinarily poor villagers to help themselves, Malawi has a long way to go before it even reaches the levels of life expectancy and wealth enjoyed by most other African countries “.
The Annual Handing Over Ceremony (of second generation animals) which commenced in 2007 is attended by over 3,000 Malawians who express their joy through song, dance and poetry and it is a most moving experience. Young musicians make their music from home made instruments. Joy was expressed by all at the improvement in the lives of the villagers. School children, farmers, women and men, chiefs and politicians attend.
The Finals of the mens football and the womens netball tournaments take place after the Handing Over ceremony. Cara Malawi has been funding this major event since 2007 and it is attended by Government representatives, Traditional Authority Representatives, village chiefs and thousands of Malawians. The Shane McCartan Memorial Trophy is awarded in memory of the deceased son of a founder member of Cara Malawi Paula Jennings and over 70 teams compete for this award. The chiefs are especially grateful to Cara Malawi for supporting these games. They underline the importance for young people to engage in healthy activity , builds community spirit and enhances the quality of life for the area. The results of the games are highlighted on Malawi national radio and in the local press.
Cara Malawi has also installed 8 water pumps in the village which have been of vital assistance in maintaining the health of the villagers.
Cara Malawi provided a four wheel vehicle for the use of the village Health Centre and this has undoubtedly saved lives.
In April 2008 Cara Malawi partnered with Irish Aid for its project to supply electricity to three points in Kaphuka the Health Centre, the School and the Maize Mill . This large undertaking will transform the lives of those in Kaphuka for the better when Escom completes the installation later in 2011. The MP for the area has pledged his support in monitoring the progress of the installation of electricity.
With the help of Cara Malawi a Maize Mill has been built and, when the electricity is installed, it will transform the lives of women and children of the village, as the pounding of maize ( the staple diet) is an arduous task. It will also create employment opportunities for the villagers.
One in four Malawians suffer from HIV/AIDS. Much of the spread of the disease is due to simple ignorance and cultural superstition. Electricity will enable the use of TV monitors at the village Health Centre to show educational videos to waiting patients. Life saving medicines can be properly stored in fridges. Currently all medical procedures that can be carried out at the clinic must be done by candlelight/ storm lamps. Electricity will enable the secondary school to progress beyond the most basic of support for the students, of which there are over 1,000.
Cara Malawi also funds adult education and has carried out repairs to a village home for a teacher at the school, school classroom roof renovations, eco latrines and cooking pots. Future projects include a small building programme to provide much needed facilities for students and staff at the school which will start in early 2011.
In July 2007, the BBC website included mention of the work of Cara Malawi in its website click here to read more.
In November 2010 a BBC World Report film crew visited Kaphuka village to report on the impact of the solar panels on the village – Click here to view the video – while the report did not mention Cara Malawi it was Cara Malawi who financed the entire project. Two women of the village were sent to the Barefoot College in India for 6 months to take part in a solar panel training programme on maintenance and installations of solar panels.On their return the women set up a Solar Panel workshop and installed 100 solar panels for 100 homes in the village. The Chandwe Womens group set up micro businesses including a cinema, barber shop and mobile phone charging . These initiatives, enabled by solar power, have created an earning capacity for the villagers along with services for fellow villagers.