Malawi Development Hubs
The Hub Concept
After intensive research and discussion with grassroots organizations and agriculturists in Malawi, we recognized the need for locally run central hubs for business training and food production. We knew to enable Malawi to be self sufficient we would need to build upon agriculture-related projects that have already been successful in Malawi and have well established local roots. We are currently identifying potential partner projects and organizations that will help create development hubs across the region.
Once the first Hub Pilot Project is established we will refine our concept and customize it to fit the needs of other communities and create future hubs across the country. All the hubs will have common approaches but will learn from and assist one another to develop skills and widen their impact. There will be regional differences to insure the needs of specific communities are being met. For example, in the south bamboo grows more easily while in the north, fruit and vegetables grow better.
Principles & Guidelines for Building the Grassroots Malawi Development Hubs
1. There will be a primary school at the centre of each hub. This school should be a non-denominational state school in an area that encompasses different languages and ethnic groups. If a single school is not available, there could be more than one, given that the project will need a considerable amount of land. We will be asking UK schools to donate books and secondhand computers. Email us if you can help donate any school equipment.
2. The hub should be located entirely in an area that is not dominated by any single crop or any single company or body that might have influenced the way in which local people develop their agriculture or their outgrower systems.
3. The plot of land around the hub should be large enough to accommodate a demonstration plot, small water reservoirs, irrigation canals, a seed centre, a herbal garden, a training centre, warehousing, an energy generation facility, and an accommodation block for teachers and visitors. It should be close to a main road and have access to water. It should be possible to reach in the wet seasons.
There are precedents: food-for-work projects have been undertaken by the UN for years in different parts of Africa.
4. The land on which the hub is based must be registered as belonging to the school or our other partners and set up as a separate entity registered with the land registry of Malawi. This is allowed in the Constitution of Malawi, which has ultimately greater power than local chiefs or elders.
5. Each hub must be constituted as a legal entity with a democratically elected board. The board will not have clergy from any single denomination, but might have some from different denominations. At least half of the board members will be women and at least one third will be people under the age of 20. They will be elected by the local people with one third being subject to re-election every year. We will be working on and refining these requirements.
There are projects that seem to have reached agreements along those lines: Butterfly Space, Temwa and Malawi Fruits, for example.
6. Each hub’s finances will be open and transparent, with all transactions published. Hubs will audit one another and have independent audits as required.
We know of three organisations that operate in Malawi this way: Lendwithcare, Opportunity Bank and Microloan Foundation of Malawi.
7. The board of each hub will set up a one-year post-primary school curriculum that will be devoted to specific agricultural-related activities. It will have at least one experienced agricultural graduate from BUNDA or a college of similar standing on its staff.
8. Each hub will set up a school garden that will be tended by the students and will aim to feed the students and the staff. It will have its own nursery of local crop varieties.
9. Each hub will have a warehouse where the surpluses will be stored.
10. Energy for the hub’s activities will be provided from domestic sources, such as wind power.
11. The polytunnel technique will be introduced from the start to enable growing of vegetables at different times of the year.
12. Some of the surpluses will be sold on the local markets with profits being generated back to the project.
We will work with a local company, set up by a local lady with a background in sociology – which trains women to do this sort of work and sell them the polytunnels.
13. The hubs should set up a demonstration of hydroponics, showing how fish tanks under polytunnels can be used on a small scale to supplement the local food supply.
14. The following will be included in the one-year post-primary training:
a. making, installing and maintaining water pumps
b. basics of finance and the skills necessary to manage and operate microfinance groups
c. basic computer skills
d. basic business skills for setting up, establishing and running small businesses - including scouting for opportunities and mentorships with entrepreneurs. The training will include a variety of activities for girls and boys with a bias towards agro-industries.
15. The hubs will consult and hire, at the going rate, highly qualified Malawians already working in the country to provide the skills they need.