Communities in Zomba challenged on environmental conservation

Just four years ago, two avid health practitioners moved to support community members around the area they operated from, Pilimiti, Zomba. Contented by the interactions with members of the community, most of whom showed their plight, the two embarked on a series of activities that are now proving critical in the lives of thousands of households in the district.

Dr. Zahra Ismail in one of the tree planting exercises.

In essence, Dr. Zahra Ismail insists she has nearly found a home in Malawi. The Eritrean had along with Grace Makonyola ignited spirited interventions to promote the wellbeing of vulnerable people including children and youths in the district since then. This saw the birth of Mlambe Health and Social Trust (MhEST).

The organization, whose wings are scintillatingly expanding out of Zomba district supports communities in programmes called Street Connected Children and Youth, Palliative Care, Vulnerable Elderly and Upgrading of Mโ€™mambo Health Centre with Maternity Unit.

All along Mhest works in unison with the local authority and often, Community Based Organizations come high subsequently empowering the people in various local projects and developmental initiatives.

โ€˜โ€™We look at CBOs as being at the helm of our activities. First, since they are the locally established groupings, we feel working with them will go a long way in seeing the people embrace the projects. Further, we also want to strengthen the structures of CBOs,โ€™โ€™ says Makonyola who serves as the organizationโ€™s Technical Director in answering why they incessantly engage the local groupings.

On her part, Executive Director Ismail describes as positive the synergy that has existed between the organization and the CBOs which she argues โ€˜โ€™ this helps in focusing on alleviating the suffering of the neediest and marginalized people in the community,โ€™โ€™.

The organization now has a five-year tree-planting program meant to donate trees and empower CBOs to produce and plant more trees disaster-prone areas of Senior Chiefs Chikowi, Mlumbe, and Mwambo.

Some of the beneficiaries offload the seedlings.

In the project, Mhest is working with up to 137 CBOs across Zomba. The project intends to have over 50,000 (Now exceeded) fruit and indigenous trees planted all meant for environmental conservation, income generation, and nutrition.

Speaking after distributing seedlings to Sub Traditional Authority Nkapita, Makonyola, said the organization is impressed with how the local communities have embraced the exercise.

According to Makonyola, the exercise will go a long way in not just conserving the environment but also empowering the rural communities in income-generating activities.

โ€˜โ€™ The trees have nutritional value, income value and conserving the environment. We are glad to say that all the local authorities have shown unwavering interest in our exercise. We are also thrilled by the support from various institutions and people that have supported us with seedlings and financesโ€™โ€™.

Makonyola interacts with some beneficiaries.

But how will the rural communities ensure the trees survive? Harrison Bwanali, a representative of Sub Traditional Authority insists that they will through the CBOs have the authority to monitor the growth of the trees and protect them from any harsh conditions.

โ€˜โ€™ I have told people that the support we have now should paint a gloomy picture of how critical this exercise is. In the end, we should be glad to raise these trees until they grow. We feel we will let Mhest and the country down should we see these trees die,โ€™โ€™ said Bwanali.

In concurring, Dr. Ismail indicated that what is also at the heart of the project remains to ensure the trees survive.

โ€˜โ€™ We ensure before planting that the communities have prepared enough for the exercise to start. We ask them to dig enough holes for the planting. In the same vein, we follow the progress in the area after every fortnight,โ€™โ€™ she added.

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