The sky's the limit

13 Oct 2016   |   Blog   |   Long-term Development   |   Malawi

Agatha and her sewing machine

The Australia Africa Community Engagement Scheme (AACES), which ran from June 2011 to June 2016, was a successful initiative. Many communities in Malawi and Tanzania now enjoy access to clean and safe water, have become more food secure, and have better sanitation and hygiene services. Martin Mazinga, Program coordinator, local partner CADECOM (the Catholic Development Commission in Malawi) reports.

Malawi and Tanzania are two of the world’s poorest countries. More than three quarters of the population in both countries live in rural areas and are dependent on subsistence farming.

Caritas Australia has worked in partnership with the national Caritas offices in Tanzania and Malawi for many years, and although the Australian Government supported AACES initiative has come to an end, our strong relationship and activities in the communities will continue.   

Agatha's story

Agatha Yosefe, 46, is a mother of two from Namkumba village, Dowa District, Malawi.

Agatha and many others in her district said that the AACES project brought about a radical and transformative change of mindset in the community.

By using a Strengths-Based Approach to development, Caritas promotes local ownership and pride by building on the people’s existing skills, resources and experiences.

My life has changed forever. I wasn't given any coins, but the knowledge and skills to turn around my life on my own."

“The introduction of the Strength-Based Approach in our village was a turning point for us. After the community came up with their vision, my husband and I went home and we came up with our own vision. On top of the list was a decent house, which we now have,” says Agatha.  

Through the program, Agatha has gained skills and knowledge in conservation, agricultural techniques, increasing the maize harvest on her one-hectare plot from 600 kilograms to 4.2 tonnes. Her family is now food secure and earns some income from the sale of surplus production.

Agatha and other members of her community (123 families) also identified the latent potential in a local wetland. Together, they now manage small scale irrigation projects which assist in increasing their vegetable harvests year round.

For small-holder farmers who rely on rain for their agriculture, this is an important development to mitigate the effects of climate change in Malawi which has affected rainfall distribution.

For Agatha, the sky really is the limit when it comes to turning around things for the better.  

“Two years ago I decided to buy a sewing machine to do tailoring as I noticed no one was doing it. Using a small loan from the AACES established village savings and loan proceeds, I bought the machine. Now I make an average of US$3 each day from tailoring.

“My life has changed for forever. I wasn’t given any coins, but the knowledge and skills to turn around my life on my own."

Learn more about AACES

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