We all suspected that Symon Chibaka, CITW programme coordinator Malawi, was doing much more good than he reservedly shares about his programme. His award as the Wilderness 4Cs Hero for 2013 confirmed this, and we got ourselves organized and headed to Malawi. Sue Goatley (Zimbabwe), Mary Hastag (Botswana), Janet Wilkinson (South Africa) and Ketji Jermain (Namibia) set off to ‘go back to school’ and join Symon and see the Malawi programme in action.
The aim of the ‘back-to-school safari’ was for each country to share their experience with CITW Eco-Clubs in their respective countries and to visit some of the Malawi schools to see the programme in action. Thereafter it was brainstorming and strategizing how to take our CITW Eco-Club programme to the next level.
For those not au fait with the CITW environmental education and life skills programme, it is built on a foundation of Eco-Clubs held at rural schools so that we reach more children and community members. It is through these Eco-Clubs that we encourage environmental and life skills projects like nutrition gardens, worm farms, indigenous nurseries and conservation importance.
Visiting at the end of the rainy season, Ketji, coming from sandy dry Namibia, was fascinated by the muddy tracks and lush vegetation everywhere on our travels in Malawi.
Our first visit was to Nanthomba Primary School where HELP Malawi (an NGO closely partnered with CITW) was handing over a newly built schoolroom. This was built with financial support from Malawi Savings Bank, Wilderness Safaris Malawi and other sponsors. Nanthomba Primary School is the oldest CITW Eco Club (started in 2003) and we were impressed at the projects the school is engaged in – permaculture, worm farming and a nursery for the reforestation project.
The safari moved on to the Namalomba Secondary School where they are piloting an E-Readers/Kindles project. The project aims at improving the reading culture among the students and adding value to the general education development at the school. The project is funded by the World Readers through the Rosemary Pencil Foundation (USA). The school had received a donation of 60 E-Readers each loaded with more than 120 texts, teachers’ guides and other reading books. The school uses these micro-computers as books and libraries. We all expressed keen interest in introducing this valuable project into our respective countries.
Later our trip returned to Nanthomba to meet over 160 Eco-Club members from Nanthomba, Kafulafula, Kavunguti Primary Schools and Namalomba Secondary School. These combined school meetings are held monthly and provide a great opportunity for children to meet and mingle with like-mined children from other schools.
The Nanthombo female community members have formed an Eco-Women Club and we were delighted to chat with them about their crafts project and micro-revolving fund activities. It is always encouraging to see active adult community member involvement in CITW!
The next visit was to the eastern side of Liwonde National Park to see Ntapwa Primary Schools International Forest Day celebrations. Although the school is only 12 km as the crow flies, the topography and muddy tracks meant a two-hour drive and this gave us the opportunity to enjoy the countryside and occasionally stop and chat to the locals. Eco-Club members planted 50 trees during the celebrations with a mixture of species – some as windbreaks and some for their fruit.
After some very productive roundtable meetings, our visit to Malawi came to an end. Inspired by the fantastic work being done by CITW Malawi and motivated by the roadmap for CITW Eco-Clubs, we headed home to start the next leg of the incredible CITW journey.
As we were based at Wilderness Safari’s Mvuu Camp, situated on the Shire River bordering the Liwonde National Park, we got to explore the area by boat and car. There where bicycles everywhere no matter what the track or road condition, making it obvious that bicycles are very valuable commodities in Malawi. The lyrics to a popular song are “9 million bicycles in Beijing”, but Janet decided it should rather be “9 million bicycles in Malawi …”
Kongola Malawi. Ta Koza
(Beautiful Malawi. Thank You)