The Family Tree Project is helping rural communities in Malawi to become more self-sufficient, resilient to natural disasters and more economically stable.
ISSUES FACING MALAWI
The majority of the population of Malawi live in rural areas, where it is common to cook on an open fire. As a result, Malawi has a very high rate of deforestation, which has become a serious issue in the past 30 years, causing soil degradation, floods and a drastic loss of biodiversity. About 90% of families living in these areas live in extreme poverty and struggle to buy firewood. The COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine and the devastating flood that Cyclone Freddy brought in March 2023 have aggravated the problems faced by these communities.
FROM Wales is a Welsh charity supporting Malawian people out of poverty. Funded by Welsh Government’s Wales and Africa scheme, they partnered with the Fisherman’s Rest Community Project (FRCP) in Southern Malawi to help these rural communities build and strengthen sustainable livelihoods.
GROWING FORESTS FOR SUSTAINABILITY
The project has identified 300 farmers in the region of TA Somba, who will receive a variety of trees to grow forests that will allow sustainable firewood use. A diverse range of species will be selected, with valuable and unique benefits to the global climate and the individual landowners.
In addition to the 40,000 trees that will be planted, the farmers will also receive theory and practical training on every aspect of the forest growing process, from identifying species to collecting seeds and managing woods. This will enable them to protect the existing and newly planted trees in the long term.
The families participating in the project will also be taught how to build and maintain a clay efficient oven, which reduces firewood consumption by 70% and saves three tonnes of carbon emissions every year. Besides the environmental benefits, this will have a social impact, particularly on women and girls, whose traditional role is to collect firewood. Using efficient ovens will allow them to spend more time on caring for their children, playing or studying.
One of the people benefitting from the project is Beti, who lives in a village in TA Somba, working on her land and caring for her five children. In recent years their land has become infertile, making it necessary to spend huge sums of money on fertilisers, as well as pesticides to deter the ever-increasing pests that reduce crop yields. Beti and her daughter take a long trip to the market every Saturday to buy firewood. The only way for them to afford this was to take high-interest loans, causing constant financial pressure on the family. The project is helping them grow their own trees and become self-sufficient.
‘Being part of the Family Tree Project gives me and my family hope that things can change. The fertiliser trees will help make the soil fertile again and the firewood trees we have been trained to harvest them so they keep growing.’
PROMOTING GLOBAL CITIZENSHIP IN WALES
FROM Wales has connected with several Welsh schools, colleges and community groups since the start of the project. Through raising awareness in conservation lessons, workshops and meetings, Welsh communities have gained first-hand knowledge about the importance of biodiversity and global ecological balance. This understanding fosters a deeper appreciation for their local environment, encouraging communities to adopt sustainable practices.