Nkhata Bay Natural Way

In 2015, ITF and partners Temwa Malawi and Deki Ltd launched a four year project in Northern Malawi: The Nkhata Bay Natural Way. Working with the most vulnerable communities, the project will bring about improved livelihoods by linking forest-friendly economic development to sustainable land management. The Nkhata Bay Natural Way is funded by the Big Lottery Fund and the JJ Trust.

Why the project is needed

Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world. 61.2% of the population live below the poverty line. In the Nkhata Bay North district, most of the population depend on subsistence farming and over 50% do not have a secure year round supply of food. This situation is coupled with the vulnerability of numerous families due to the HIV/AIDS crisis. 16% of 15-49 year olds are HIV positive in Malawi.

There are high rates of deforestation in the district. Mismanagement of forest resources has directly contributed to progressive environmental degradation with increasing climate related shocks being coupled with a reduction in the communities’ ability to respond effectively. This creates a negative downward spiral whereby elevated livelihood vulnerability results in the adoption of costly coping behaviours, which in turn fuel further environmental degradation.

Sustainable agriculture for improved food security

The Nkhata Bay Natural Way aims to engage with local communities in 110 villages to bring about change in the way they manage their environment. Over the four year period, the most vulnerable households will be trained in sustainable agriculture and agroforestry. Through cultivating vegetables, fruit and trees that are adapted to the local conditions and adopting agroforestry, and soil and water conservation practices which reduce erosion and boost soil fertility, food security will be improved. Sustainable agriculture practices will also decrease deforestation, as trees are often cleared for new agricultural land once the soil becomes infertile in the current location.

Practically, the project has set up tree nurseries and demonstration gardens where farmers come to learn about sustainable farming and agroforestry. Temwa are training lead farmers who can in turn teach their peers and ensure the message reaches a wider audience.

Community engagement in forest and environmental conservation

Throughout the first year, almost 100,000 trees were planted in areas of degraded woodland and on farmland. This has been achieved through Village Natural Resource Committees – groups of local community members who have established tree nurseries and planted out indigenous and agroforestry tree species.

NBNW - Temwa Malawi - Lead Farmers - 2016
Nkhata Bay Natural Way - Temwa - 2016
Nkhata Bay Natural Way - Temwa - 2016

Forest friendly businesses for improved livelihoods and environmental protection

Focusing on the most vulnerable households – those with more than 8 members, hosting orphans or with HIV positive members – the Nkhata Bay Natural Way is encouraging environmental and forest-friendly small businesses. The project is helping villagers establish Savings and Loans Groups and building their confidence and skills to manage their money effectively. These groups provide a means by which villagers make small regular savings which they can use to invest in businesses that can change people’s lives. The project is providing training and small items of equipment to the groups and aims in future to provide microfinance loans specifically targeted to support forest friendly and sustainable agriculture enterprises.  This part of the project benefits from the partnership with Deki Ltd, who have much experience in supporting small-scale sustainable enterprises through microfinance.

Strengthening local governance

To bring about change that will be long-lasting, the Nkhata Bay Natural Way is working to support and build the capacity of local governance structures. The project works closely with Village Development Committees and Area Development Committees  across the district to advocate for more effective environmental protection including increased awareness, local bye-laws and local institutional arrangements to protect forests and water sources.

The Nkhata Bay Natural Way will run from 2015 – 2019 and will directly benefit 3,300 individuals and improve the lives of over 24,000 people.

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