Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) together with Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) is implementing a three-year gender project in Traditional Authority (T/A) Chowe in Mangochi aimed at addressing environmental problems that culminate in sedimentation in the Shire River Basin which affect the performance of Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) hydro-power facilities.
The project, worth about K190 million (about $280 179), seeks to increase hydro-power generation by empowering communities, especially women, through different initiatives.
Among the initiatives, CCJP wants to train women in business, marketing and leadership skills; engage men and women in joint decision-making to ensure sustainable management of natural resources and improve their literacy levels.
“Before we start implementing the project, we thought it wise to come here and hear your problems,” said CCJP diocesan secretary for Mangochi Diocese, Bruno Banda during a recent visit to M’madi Msosa Village.
A member of the village, Agnes James, 57, said levels of poverty in the area have reached alarming levels because people are not empowered with skills and knowledge on how to run small-scale businesses, irrigation farming skills and saving schemes.
“Because we do not have these skills, we resort to depleting natural forests,” she says.
James feels the project will help the communities realise they are contributing to environmental degradation which is affecting them negatively.
Saidi Yusufu, 36, from Chembe Village, said apart from helping them to conserve the environment, the project will also teach them better farming skills, thereby empowering them to be food secure.
“It will help reduce our poverty levels as well as pressure on the environment,” he said.
Banda said the project aims at addressing social and gender constraints and inequalities in communities along the Upper Shire River that prevent sustainable agriculture practices and sustainable management of natural resources.
“CCJP is geared to change the plight of communities of this area. The project expects that by 2018, at least 85 percent of women from T/A Chowe are able to take full responsibility of caring for the environment since they will be empowered socially and economically,” he said. n