A landlocked country in Southern Africa, Malawi has one of the lowest Human Development Index rankings in the world: 171 out of 187 countries. Agriculture is the primary industry, employing over 80% of the working age population. Food insecurity is chronic, and is exacerbated by extensive mono-cropping of maize (corn) and an over dependence on rain-fed agriculture. Food security and human development are further constrained by malaria, HIV/AIDS and high infant and maternal mortality rates – adult HIV prevalence is 11% and is 47% for children.
PCI has operated in Malawi since 2007, when it began activities by leading an innovative Global Development Alliance initiative to strengthen aquaculture value chains for fish farmers and other related micro, small and medium enterprises in the southern Zomba River basin. Since that time, PCI has expanded its efforts to include important initiatives in HIV/AIDS care and prevention; food security; maternal, newborn and child health and nutrition; women’s empowerment; and disaster prevention, response and mitigation.
COMBATING FOOD INSECURITY
In 2009, PCI helped initiate the USAID-funded Wellness and Agriculture for Life Advancement (WALA) project in Southern Malawi’s Balaka and Machinga districts. Designed to improve maternal and child health, nutritional status, and food security for over 200,000 vulnerable households, this integrated, five-year project provided farmers with training, tools and inputs required to grow high- yield crops using conservation agriculture techniques and small-scale irrigation systems to improve depleted soils and extend growing seasons. Mother and Father Care Groups promoted improved health and nutrition behaviors at the community and household levels. Additionally, through the Women Empowered (WE) Initiative—a savings-led microfinance program—PCI successfully formed almost 1,300 economic and social empowerment groups with over 27,000 members. Once established and operational, WE groups become a sustainable, ongoing business and economic development platform that is entirely directed and administered by the members themselves, without outside management, resources or long-term external support. Based on the success of WALA, in 2014 PCI was chosen to lead a $30 million dollar, five-year food security initiative in Balaka and Machinga districts called “Njira”, which will improve agriculture, agribusiness, health, nutrition and disaster preparedness for vulnerable families.
- Smallholder farmer training on conservation agriculture technologies has resulted in improved crop production practices for 21,187 low-income households. These practices will help farmers to achieve higher crop yields, better food security and improved incomes.
ADDRESSING THE ROOT CAUSES OF RECURRENT DROUGHT
In early 2013, PCI initiated Project ARC (Addressing Root Causes), a project funded by USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance to mitigate the root causes of widespread food insecurity in Malawi caused by drought and late or erratic rainfall. The project targets households in Balaka, where climatic and economic challenges are further compounded by reliance on drought intolerant crops and poor land management practices, resulting in high levels of land degradation, erosion, inefficient irrigation, poor soil fertility, low water table levels, and rampant deforestation. PCI is reinforcing the coping mechanisms of households in areas of high water scarcity through the introduction of drought tolerant crops and improved production technologies, as well as community-level projects to increase natural water retention in soils and recharge aquifers. In the first 12 months alone, the project reinforced the resiliency of nearly 3,000 people through the expansion and support of WE groups and strengthened early detection and treatment of acute malnutrition.
FAMILY-CENTERED MATERNAL & CHILD HEALTH
Since 2010, PCI has been addressing the needs of orphans and other vulnerable children in Malawi through organizing and maintaining Care Groups for caregivers of these children through the USAID/CRS-funded IMPACT project. In FY14, these Care Groups empowered over 5,000 caregivers by allowing them the opportunity to participate in peer-to-peer education in maternal and child health with a focus on infant and young child feeding; water, sanitation and hygiene; reproductive health; and HIV/AIDS prevention. Caregivers involved in PCI’s Care Groups have shown substantial changes in behavior, resulting in health gains for the target population of orphans and vulnerable children. PCI also assisted with child abuse and exploitation response, promoted primary school retention, and increased financial and academic support to participating children. Because of PCI’s rich experience with Care Groups, the organization was awarded a USAID/TOPS-funded grant to study whether the application of the Care Group methodology among fathers increases household and community behavior change in reproductive, maternal and child health practices.
HIV/AIDS PREVENTION, TREATMENT AND SUPPORT
In Malawi, where the national HIV prevalence rate is 11%, PCI has cumulatively reached over 28,000 people with prevention messaging and over 14,000 people with HIV testing through the Department of Defense HIV/AIDS Prevention Program since 2009. The Malawi program’s unique features include the engagement of chaplains for disseminating HIV/AIDS prevention messages to youth and couples using the True Love Waits/True Love Stays methodology; self-help groups for people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIV) focusing on empowerment, prevention, and care and support for PLHIV; training HIV positive military personnel as peer educators to strengthen prevention efforts among soldiers who are HIV positive; utilizing Theatre for Development, a behavior change communications methodology employing live interactive performances; and supporting income-generating activities for PLHIV.
CURRENT FUNDING PARTNERS: U.S. Agency for International Development, U.S. Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, U.S. Department of Defense, and Kirk Humanitarian