Q&A from the Gumulira Millennium Village in Malawi

image from Gumulira, Malawi, a Millennium Promise Village

What was the situation like at the start of the project in Gumulira?

The project was launched in September 2006 to address a major challenge of food insecurity caused by limited access to improved hybrid maize seed and inorganic fertilizers. Maize production was as low as 1.2 to 1.5 metric tons or less. As such, food insecurity was prevalent during some months of the year. The project area also faced a challenge of limited and difficult access to medical services, with the nearest health facility being over 10 kilometers away. Access to clean water was also a prevailing situation, with a majority of the people using unsafe water drawn from shallow and open wells, predisposing the people to various water-borne diseases. There was a poor learning environment for primary school pupils, with inadequate or no classrooms (learning under a tree and borrowed church facilities) in one of the schools in Gumulira. Deforestation due to tobacco production and other environmental mismanagement practices continues to threaten Gumulira, making it vulnerable to devastating climatic changes. There is no electricity in Gumulira, neither is there a piped water system.

How has the village benefited directly from the project / Raising Malawi support?

Gumulira has implemented a number of development interventions to close some of the development gaps described above. For example, there has been the provision of hybrid maize seed and inorganic fertilizers, thereby realizing increased production of maize from an average of between 1.2–1.5 metric tons per hectare to 4.27–5.6 metric tons per hectare. This has created a food surplus situation and, the surplus production has been used as a source of income and contributing to the school feeding program in the project, currently reaching up to 1,864 pupils. The project also benefited from the distribution of 700 female and 30 males goats on a “pass-on scheme,” and just over 130 goats have been passed on to secondary beneficiaries.

girl at water pump in Gumulira, Malawi, a Millennium Promise VillageAlthough the project has had no physical structure in the form of a health facility, access to health services has been significantly improved by conducting integrated outreach clinics twice per week and a school health intervention. Over 6,000 people have been treated over the past four years and distance to access health services has been reduced from 10km (over six miles) to about 2km (just over one mile). The project drilled six new boreholes and repaired 16 non-functional ones and, therefore, providing clean water to over 5,000 people. Community members were trained on maintenance of the water points to ensure continuous availability of potable water.

Gumulira has also benefited from the construction of a new school with four classrooms. As a result, the government upgraded the school from standard 2 to standard 4. Gumulira has also benefited from improved communication through the erection of a tower by Zain Malawi under Millennium Promise partnership with Ericsson.

What is the most memorable story coming from the village?

One of the memorable stories is that community members in Gumulira harvested more maize per unit area than the national average production. Therefore, households have had adequate food over the past four years and were able contribute two bags of maize (100kg) for the school meals program and the surplus was used to purchase a US$17,000.00 truck to support the construction of the community center in Gumulira. The truck is being used as a business venture for the Gumulira community and is also used to ferry various materials including bricks, sand, quarry, stone, cement and irons sheets for community projects. Another story concerns the improved access to medical services saw the reduction in travel distance from 10 km to a maximum 2km through the introduction integrated outreach health services. This has provided easy family planning services with an increase in contraceptive prevalence rate from 20%–62%. And for outpatients services over 6,000 people have been treated with an average of 40% of those treated coming from outside Gumulira. The provision of health services gave rise to the formation of a Community Based Organization (CBO) and an HIV and AIDS support group providing group therapy.

medical aid in Gumulira, Malawi, a Millennium Promise Village

If more support / resources were to become available, how would these resources be used, what would be the expected impact?

Additional resources would be applied for completing the construction of staff houses for a health facility and construction of additional school blocks and teachers’ houses. The additional support would also be applied towards scaling up the project from only covering 5,000 people to 20,000–25,000. This would mean more people having access to safe drinking water, directly improving health by reducing illness cause by water-borne diseases; more people with access to opportunities for agricultural inputs on loan and other business loans for economic empowerment and for food production.

Additional support/resources would also be applied for improving energy supply for the village by connecting the village to the national electricity grid and giving more business opportunities in the village, including processing and pumping water for irrigation purposes. A gravity-fed piped-water system is another project for additional resources.

How has the support from Raising Malawi changed the long-term outlook for the community at Gumulira?

The support for Raising Malawi has indeed changed the long-term outlook of the Gumulira community. For example, the community school now has a new school and six additional classrooms, complete with school meals kitchens. The community now has a multi-purpose community center, the meeting place for Gumulira. The Gumulira community is now connected to the world through the provision of a network cellular phone within a 15 km radius (over nine miles). The number of cellular phones is ever on the increase from ZERO in September 2006 to over 400 in July 2010.

The provision of agricultural inputs and hybrid maize seed has completely changed the food security situation and the maize planting technology of one seed per planting station has changed the production system. Access to clean water has now assured that the various water committees entered into maintenance contracts of their water points with an area mechanic.

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