Realising African Visions: strong people, powerful communities

This five year program will increase food security and improve access to clean water and hygiene facilities in Tanzania and Malawi. Nine communities, six dioceses, 24,000 people will realise their own community vision with their own skills, strengths and resources.

Family in Kamphata, Malawi 

African nations are some of the richest nations on earth - that is, if you measure wealth by the strength of people, power of communities, local resources, skills and resilience. This richness, however, is in stark contrast to most African nations’ material wealth...

Man is truly human only...if he is the architect of his own progress.
Pope Paul VI, Populorum Progressio, 1967

Malawi and Tanzania are two of the world’s poorest countries. More than three quarters of the population in both countries lives rurally and are dependent upon the land.

In Malawi and Tanzania, many communities suffer chronic food shortages, malnourishment and poor economic growth as a result of the quality of land, poor transport access, vulnerability to natural disasters and market price fluctuations. Malawi and Tanzania also struggle with limitations to household water supply. In Tanzania, around half of the population has access to sanitation facilities and just half have access to safe drinking water.[1]

Improving food security and access to water in Africa

Caritas Australia and our African partners recognise that food and water are not only fundamental to life, but they are essential for people to live in dignity and in good health. Having access to food and water enables communities to develop livelihoods, earn an income and learn new skills. Supported by the Australian Government, Caritas Australia is working in partnership with our national Caritas offices in Tanzania and Malawi, to implement a five-year development program, the Australia Africa Community Engagement Scheme, or AACES for short.

The program builds on the communities’ strengths and experiences so they can enjoy access to clean and safe water, become more food secure, and have better sanitation and hygiene services.

Start with a vision - Build with strengths

At the start of this program, each village developed its five year vision through strong community consultation and participation, with a particular focus on the most marginalised (women, the elderly, people living with HIV/AIDS, people living with disabilities and orphans). Community members say that this process helps them to ‘dream in colour’.

The community then helps direct their own development using our “strengths based approach” to development. This approach helps very poor and marginalised communities realise their strengths and assets, including natural resources but most importantly their human potential, skills, strengths and abilities.

The determination, strength and ability to thrive already exists in these communities. Caritas Australia and our partners are privileged to accompany these communities, providing the physical resources and technical knowledge, with which they can break out of subsistence cycles and determine their own futures.

Doney's story


When Doney’s community started working with the local Caritas, CADECOM Blantyre, they began seeing beyond the challenges, and instead saw their strengths.

They began to harness their natural resources through learning new farming techniques so that they have enough food. The community also installed a borehole so Doney and her family can now access clean water.


The AACES program in Malawi has already generated many benefits, including:

  • In just 6 months, one community saved over $150,000 (USD) in their village saving loan scheme
  • 12,479 people have benefited from the water, sanitation and hygiene component of the program
  • Increased household income for 1,000 farmers from the sale of vegetables in the past six months as a result of an irrigation initiative
  • Some AACES communities have had the average number of hungry months reduced from five to just one
  • Despite much of Malawi being food insecure, one AACES community has been declared food secure, with households now eating three meals a day (compared to two previously)

By 2016, these communities in Tanzania and Malawi will have:

  • Improved and continuous access to clean water and be equipped to manage this for better sanitation, health and living conditions.
  • All farmers in the communities will be able to guarantee food security throughout the year and use their agricultural produce for sustainable livelihoods.
  • Communities, especially women and other marginalised members (eg people with disabilities, child-headed households) will gain greater control of their lives and have more opportunities to participate in community decision-making. Individuals and communities will become more resilient and have better access to local government resources.

[1] Data from the UN. Details about our data sources.