When I last visited Nkhata Bay North, Malawi in September 2014, I was working with Temwa staff on community consultations. We were developing a project proposal to be submitted to the Big Lottery Fund. Now, 11 months later, it is exciting to return with the proposal having been approved, the grant awarded and the project up and running.
And yes, the Nkhata Bay Natural Way project really has hit the ground running. Even before the official start date on 1 July, some of the participating communities were already busy establishing tree nurseries.
A total of 18 Village Natural Resource Management Committees have identified land for the tree nurseries and built shelters. One committee for the villages of Kapazuka and Matemanga has not only erected an impressive shelter but filled as many as 15,000 pots and sown tree seeds of a variety of species. And all within three weeks!
The villages are in a hurry because the rainy season will arrive in December. To ensure their survival, the seedlings must have grown strong enough to be planted out by then. The species chosen include trees for agroforestry, improved soil fertility, woodlots and forest restoration.
One important tree is Moringa, which has huge health benefits. It is a nutrient-rich tree, with antioxidant qualities, boosting the immune system. This is especially important given the important number of people in Nkhata Bay North living with HIV, as high as 16% of 15-49 year olds.
Malawi Project Manager, Benson Chiumia, told me that the demand from the 18 Village Natural Resource Management Committees is overwhelming: nearly double the 90,000 trees planned for the first year of the project. Together with our new Programmes Manager, Paul Laird, I had the opportunity to visit two of the new tree nurseries. We were really impressed with what has been achieved in a short space of time.
Over the last week, we have also been working with the project staff to develop a monitoring framework.
The team will soon be conducting baseline surveys, so we can track the changes the project is making across the 110 participating villages in Nkhata Bay North over the coming four years.
Andy Egan, ITF Chief Executive
From Nkhata Bay North, Malawi