By building sand dams and growing trees, dryland communities in Malawi can transform their own lives and land. Alfred Matsimbe, field officer at Churches Action in Relief and Development (CARD) – our partner in Malawi – reports on our latest programme in the region.

Trees are one of the most valuable and important natural resources, providing people with food, oxygen and shade, whilst also absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, helping to mitigate the effects of climate change. They contribute to a rich, diverse and healthy ecosystem as animals, insects, birds and fungi make their home in the trees. This balanced environment is beneficial to all beings.

Apart from the above, trees also receive and hold rainwater in the land helping to prevent water run-off, landslides and soil erosion. They aid in the re-greening of land and are one of the many ways we can reverse the negative impacts of mass deforestation and land degradation. One simply cannot talk about improving the environment and natural resources management without talking about trees.

With this in mind, Sand Dams Worldwide and CARD, with financial support from Jersey Overseas Aid, and other donors, including The Randal Charitable Foundation and Guernsey Overseas Aid and Development Commission are implementing a project titled ‘Strengthening Climate Resilience of Small-holder Farmers in Malawi’, which will see three communities in Chikwawa and Nsanje districts, South Malawi, supported to build sand dams, grow trees and develop climate-smart agriculture.Fatch Blamu, village commitee chairperson in Malawi

“The project has brought in hope for an improved environment.”

Fatch Blamu, Village Development Committee chairperson, Malawi.

The project will introduce sand dams to local people as a new rainwater harvesting and climate change adaptation technique in Malawi, paving the way for improved natural resource management, hygiene, agricultural production, and poverty reduction in rural areas suffering from water and food insecurity.

Alongside this, CARD, Village Natural Resources Management Committees (VNRMCs) – an entity revamped by CARD – and Forestry Extension Officers from Malawi’s Department of Forestry are teaming up to support communities to establish tree nurseries. And despite a prolonged dry spell that started on 18th December 2020 to 17th January 2021, the survival rate of the trees in the nurseries has been 100 per cent so far.

A Village Natural Resources Management Committee with their tree nursery.

According to a VNRMC chairperson, Jesman Teliyasi, the tree nurseries will provide communities with an important aspect of natural resources conservation and protection.

He says: “The project and trainings have empowered us to increase awareness and develop a habit of tree planting amongst our communities (that wasn’t there before). Luckily, the trainings were also facilitated by personnel from the Department of Forestry which has also given us the knowledge and power to protect the forests in the communities we live in.”

Meanwhile, Village Development Committee (VDC) chairperson, Fatch Blamu, whose area has faced a lot of soil erosion over the years, added: “The project has brought in hope for an improved environment.”

We will continue reporting from projects in Malawi in the coming months as communities start to build their first ever sand dams.

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