Interview with Dr Pullanikkatil - the Nation on Sunday

By Vanessa Duclos, Research Manager

Dr Deepa Pullanikkatil has been interviewed by the Nation on Sunday about her work with Abundance. The article in the newspaper highlights Abundances successful initiatives and their impact for the Mmando Village and beyond. You can access the interview here.

Well done Deepa and team Abundance!

” We want the village to then in-turn empower other villages in creating ripple effects since our dream is to have a world of plenty, where there is no lack, for humans and nature to thrive.” – Dr Deepa Pullanikkatil.


Update on the CJIF Bioenergy project in Malawi

By Dr Deepa Pullanikkatil, Founder of Abundance

The Scottish Government Climate Justice Innovation Fund funded project “Development of sustainable clean cooking facilities to boost resilience to climate change in Malawi” is proceeding despite the COVID-19 restrictions. The team at Abundance is holding biweekly meetings with Dr Nader Karimi who is the PI for this project and with LEAD, LUANAR and Fab Engineering as partners.

LUANAR completed the survey on waste availability by studying agricultural and other organic waste available in different parts of the country in March/April 2020. Manufacturing on the prototype of biogas/biosyngas cooker has begun by Fab Engineering in Blantyre. This prototype will be piloted in the kitchen of the primary school at Mbando village in August 2020. Abundance held a meeting at Mbando village on 19 May with safe distancing to mobilise youth at Mbando village to collect dry and wet waste ahead of the piloting. Care will be taken to ensure gender balance within this youth team.

This project pilots an innovative technology specifically made for Malawi’s unique wet and dry seasons (which generate wet and dry organic waste). The dry and wet waste will be separately fed into a gasifier plant (biogas/biosyngas) to create energy for a cooker that can work year round. The technology is smokefree and has no negative health implications. A study on social and cultural aspects of using the cooker technology will be conducted by Abundance in August 2020.

A draft questionnaire is being prepared for the same and SFA members who are interested in this project and wish to review it are welcome to contact Abundance (abundance.future@gmail.com).


Waste management in small urban context - Malawi

By Dora Nyirenda, Research Administrator of the Malawi hub

On January 11th 2020, I had the privilege to visit the Mzuzu (Nsilo) dumpsite located in the Northern part of Malawi. This opportunity arose while making arrangements for the symposium/workshop that was initially planned to take place in Mzuzu, Malawi.

The dumpsite was a project of Mzuzu City Council in conjunction with Plan Malawi, implemented with funding from the European Union. The facility was to be finished and put into use in 2017, but unfortunately, the place started being used without being fully finished, which made it a place that was perfect for breeding flies due to the lack of waste management. This is especially problematic because the facility is close to people’s homes and a primary school and that flies can be a vector of many diseases and infections.

I visited the area where the dumpsite was when the people were protesting on the 10th January 2020. I asked one of the community members why they were protesting, and she said, ’The unfinished facility is breeding and harbouring a lot of flies. We cannot eat or prepare our foods in the open as the flies land in our food, which puts our health at risk.’  It was on that day that the angry and concerned community members set fire to the facility, which has been closed.

This marked the end of the people’s patience. Before the facility was set on fire, the community members were promised that chemicals would be applied frequently to kill the flies, but this was not happening. The dumpsite was close to a primary school, meaning that flies were landing in the school children’s food.

One of the community members said, ‘We were told that the facility would have machines inside that would be processing and grinding the waste, and that the end product would be manure, which would even benefit the community. But this has not been happening as the facility started being used before they finished constructing it.’ This raised the interesting question of whether the community gave a consent to the facility’s construction or if they were even asked for their views and concerns before the dumpsite project was implemented. This is an example of a problematic situation where planners did not consult properly the local communities and where the implementation of the initiatives did not lead to the expected outcomes. Unless environmental initiatives are context appropriate and involve local communities from inception, the impact can’t be guaranteed.

The Malawi hub is working on a project proposal to investigate the local challenges in implementing solid waste management in Mzuzu and to facilitate the identification of potential situated solutions.


Cooking up a Sustainable Solution to Malawi’s Energy Crisis

By Deepa Pullanikkatil and Dave Gerow

Cooking is one of the key contributors to Malawi’s significant energy crisis. At present, nearly the entire population uses firewood or charcoal to cook their meals. This has resulted in rapid deforestation, damaging agricultural activities and ultimately intensifying poverty. It’s also linked to serious health problems because of air quality issues associated with burning wood and charcoal indoors.

Malawi’s dependence on charcoal and firewood as fuel has only grown with the effects of climate change. Frequent droughts have resulted in the loss of thousands of fishing jobs and hurt the country’s ability to produce hydroelectric power, all of which increases the people’s dependence on coal and firewood for both fuel and employment. The result is that Malawi has the highest deforestation rate in southern Africa, with children and women engaged in the difficult labour of firewood collection. Now more than ever, there is a vital need for sustainable and clean cooking technologies in Malawi.

To address this need, the Scottish government announced a competition in October 2019. The winners of the Climate Justice Innovation Fund were a consortium including the University of Glasgow and several partners in Malawi: Lead Southern and Eastern Africa, Abundance, FAB Engineering and Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR). The project, which builds on earlier research on energy fuel conducted in Malawi by the University of Glasgow in collaboration with Abundance, will last 16 months with a total grant of £122,583. The team consists of engineers, industrialists, entrepreneurs, environmental scientists and local activists, and is led by Principal Investigator Dr. Nader Karimi of the Engineering Faculty at the University of Glasgow. The team members met through the Sustainable Futures in Africa (SFA) Network and previous collaborations.

This project aims to create a solution to Malawi’s cooking problem by using agricultural and municipal waste to produce bio-fuels which are then burned in a novel gas cooker. The key objectives are:

1- To deliver a ‘Bioenergy Kit’: a sustainable biofuel production (biogas and biosyngas) and utilization unit for clean and efficient cooking.

2- To manufacture and maintain this Bioenergy Kit in Malawi and attract attention from local businesses.

This innovative project combines two methods of biofuel generation to widen the range of biomass that can be used for fuel production. It further introduces a novel, robust cooker technology that can greatly reduce the cost of fuel processing, making the technology economically viable. Local manufacturing, maintenance, operation and marketing of the Bioenergy Kit will create local jobs, contributing to the empowerment of communities and the alleviation of poverty.

The Bioenergy Kit will be created at the University of Glasgow in close collaboration with the Malawian partners and will be engineered specifically for the Malawian situation. In line with Malawi’s waste availability, both dry waste and wet waste can both be used as fuel. The technology will be completely smoke-free, with a chimney that will be adapted based on users’ input. It will be piloted at a lunch kitchen in a primary school in Mbando village, where Abundance has been working since 2016. With this technology, the team hopes to collaborate on a sustainable solution to Malawi’s pressing energy crisis.

You can see the announcement of the grant here: https://www.corra.scot/grants/international-development/


Success for Abundance Fundraiser; eLearning Center secured for rural Malawi!

Abundance graduated from the GlobalGiving Accelerator program, becoming a regonised partner, through successfully raising $5,538 from 60 unique individual donors in 18 days in June 2018 to support their project, "Build an eLearning Center in rural Malawi!".

eLearning provides many benefits to rural community, as through this they can stay up-to-date with information that can help improve their lives. Abundance therefore sought help through GlobalGiving to fundraise for setting up an eLearning center at the village we work in. Donations were received from USA, UK, Canada, Malawi, Singapore, South Africa, India, Qatar, Swaziland and many more. Sustainable Futures in Africa network  partners also donated to support this. The funds received will be used to purchase solar panels, Keepods, keepod-ready laptops, furniture and for holding training sessions at the eLearning center.

GlobalGiving is the first and largest global crowdfunding community that connects nonprofits, donors, and companies in nearly every country around the world. Having participated in the June 2018 Accelerator program, Abundance has been vetted and approved and are now recognized partners of GlobalGiving.

Here is the link to Abundance’s project: http://goto.gg/33386


Reflections from Glasgow

Reflections from Glasgow

by Dr Deepa Pullanikkatil

I believe it was serendipity that lead me to work at the University of Glasgow this year. Two years ago, an unexpected e-mail from Mia Perry, a lecturer and leader of many projects at the University of Glasgow came into the mailbox of “Abundance” a non-profit organization in Malawi which I co-founded with some friends in 2016. She was searching for organizations working in Malawi and had stumbled across our website. Since then, Abundance became part of the “Sustainable Futures in Africa” network, an inter-disciplinary network of academicians and practitioners in UK and Africa working across disciplines for making research more relevant for the developing world.  Through this network, I got an opportunity to do a secondment at the University of Glasgow for a few months early this year, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

The time I spent at Glasgow was filled with interesting meetings at the University. But I also could enjoy some solitude, which gave me a chance to reflect on my experience. During my reflections, I jotted down five things I learnt and I am happily sharing them with you:

  1. The leap of faith

I was fully aware that to some extend I was jumping into the unknown as I agreed to take up the consultancy and residency at Glasgow. I was to connect researchers at Glasgow with organizations and researchers in Africa and also shape their research to be more development oriented and appropriate for the developing country context. While I had worked in Africa for over 17 years, I had not done this kind of consultancy before. However, when I looked within, I had faith and the work “felt right”. I became conscious that this is the work I love and am passionate about, so saying “yes” was easy. Furthermore, the opportunity came through Mia, whom I trust. The work went smoothly, particularly because I was working with a fantastic colleague Lynn McCorriston who went out of her way to ensure that the work and meetings went smoothly and that my stay was super comfortable. I feel satisfied that I made a contribution and I learnt that it’s okay to take the leap of faith.

  1. The power of networks

The networks I have made in my professional and personal life have always supported me over the years. Because I spend so much time in my work, I find that my professional colleagues become my good friends and mentors. The LEAD Network is one such network where I have mentors and friends in Malawi and around the world. Indeed, during the consultancy, I linked the University of Glasgow with former colleagues, organizations such as LEAD Southern and Eastern Africa as well as members of the LEAD Fellows network, who, as a result, would be undertaking collaborative projects with the University of Glasgow in the near future. In some of the projects, I am involved too, hence I would get a chance to work with people I love, what an amazing blessing from networking!

  1. Making most of the circumstances

The period I was resident at Glasgow, I witnessed a once in 33 years snow storm called “The Beast from the East”. Some reports said it was the coldest month of March in 100 years in the UK. I had hoped to see some snow, but being snowed in for three days was not exactly what I wished for. It would have been easy to brood and indulge in some self-pity or cabin fever, especially for someone like me who is used to the moderate and sunny weather of southern Africa. But, I decided to embrace the situation and following the hourly weather updates, I took a chance to step out when it was safe and soak in the beauty of the snowy cityscape. As a result, I got some stunning photographs and videos. Lynn and I braved the cold and visited the People’s Museum and Botanical Garden, which was just spectacular surrounded by snow all around.

  1. Change work routines

At Glasgow, I got a new routine of walking about 40 minutes to work every day, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Leaving a bit early from my apartment to explore a new route every day, I got a chance to appreciate the architecture and the many historical buildings in Glasgow. I also enjoyed people watching at Kelvingrove Park which was en-route to work. The cute dogs are taken on walks by their owners, the students cycling, school children rushing to school, elderly taking strolls and, the statues and fountains made this a wonderful morning routine to cherish. The University of Glasgow staff were extremely friendly and helpful. As the campus is big and many departments were spread out and a bit distant from each other, we held meetings at café’s which were located conveniently for colleagues. I felt we got a lot of creative ideas and discussion flowing more freely when we stepped out of the office for a bit and enjoyed a coffee and a light meal, surrounded by cutesy artsy café décor. I enjoyed the chats over coffee and meals about research projects, art, politics and philosophy with many colleagues including Lynn McCorriston, Mia Perry and Carlos Galan-Diaz.

  1. The power of technology

Not to sound like a gushing fan of technology, I do have to say that it touches my life on a daily basis. I walked to work every day guided by Google Map’s navigation lady’s voice. Through Facebook, I connected with a Glaswegian friend and attended her birthday party. I also connected with a classmate of mine after 20 years through facebook and booked my bus tickets online to spend a weekend with his family at Aberdeen. For travelling within the city, I used Uber and an app that allowed me to buy bus tickets online. Most of my meetings with people outside the UK was through skype or Zoom or Go-To-Meeting. During the snow storm, we continued to work and had skype meetings. I don’t know what I would have done without my daily evening video chats with my family through whatsapp. Not to mention the many minutes I save every day from doing simple things like checking in online for flights, or ordering gifts online and planning my day according to the weather forecast. As much as technology has its problems, I realised that we can’t do without it and it makes our lives so much easier.

The beautiful city of Glasgow, its museums, café’s, friendly and humorous people and the rich intellectual atmosphere at the University of Glasgow was an inspiring experience for me. Through this serendipitous connection with the University, I have made new friends, new connections and become part of new and exciting collaborative projects. There is an old African saying, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”. I thank the University of Glasgow (Lynn, Mia and Molly in particular) for this walk together and making me feel part of a bigger team and a greater vision. Looking forward to the journey ahead!


Art and Development walking hand in hand

by Stewart Paul

I was fortunate to be amongst those who helped organize and participate at the workshop on “Exploring the role of Arts in Development Projects” held in Lilongwe at the beautiful Child Legacy International premises on 17th of January this year. As part of the Sustainable Futures in Africa (SFA) network, this workshop was amongst the many activities done in Uganda, Malawi, Botswana and Nigeria where SFA members are based. For Malawi, I felt it was high time that artists and development practitioners work together on sustainability issues. This will help them to think out-of-the-box and come up with new and creative ideas to solve sustainability challenges. As part of Abundance, I attended the workshop with Abundance’s Director, Ruth Mumba and felt that it was very well organized and participants appreciated this endeavor. Initially, we had no clue what the workshop outcomes would be as it was such a novel concept. But after the workshop ended and when we reflected on it, we have realized that it was indeed an enriching experience.

Elson Kambalu, a visual artist who is also a film-maker introduced the workshop and talked about the need for artists and other partners in the development sector to work together and he explained his plan to produce a documentary of the workshop for the next SFA meeting which was to be held in Lagos, Nigeria. The ice-breaker session was interesting and Sharon Kalima got the participants to play games and get to know each other. I had a chance to present about the SFA network and share some views from the SFA meeting I attended in Botswana last year.

Helen Todd of Arts and Global Health Center Africa (ArtGlo) introduced the World Café method of participants working together and developing ideas. We all sat in mixed groups of artists, development practitioners and academicians and brainstormed on sustainability topics and how arts can play a role in such work. Some of the ideas that emanated were that Government should incorporate arts into basic education, introduce more art trainings and provide funds to artists. Organizations must include art through engaging creativity of artists into development projects, we felt.

One challenge discussed was that of how art could solve ecological and social challenges Malawi faces. Solutions aired by participants were many including composing traffic jingles for civic education, imparting knowledge through art on cultural heritage and importance of ecological sites, documenting cultural art and disseminating it through libraries, etc. Overall, participants agreed that artists must be included right from inception of any project, after all art is close to people and people can relate to art. We must promote arts as a platform for discussion of development issues. Local songs, dramas and creative messages can help advocate for sustainability issues such as promotion of renewable energy.

Ruth Mumba got a chance to present about Abundance’s work and Helen Todd presented about how ArtGlo had successfully incorporated art into development projects in Malawi. The participants were treated to a tour of the Child Legacy International premises which is a sustainably-built center. On our way back to our homes, we all felt that we made new friends and learnt a lot. I hope this is just a starting point and a lot of projects can be generated from the ideas generated from this workshop.


Art & Global Health Center Africa (ArtGlo)

The Art & Global Health Center Africa (ArtGlo) fosters creative leadership and implements innovative, arts-based, health-oriented programmes that inspire and mobilise. We believe in the transformative power of the arts to facilitate experiential learning, strengthen communities and foster empathy and cross-cultural understanding. Our vision is to serve as an “incubator” for arts-based approaches to actionable social change, creating replicable models that challenge barriers to healthy living.

Three programmes, MAKE ART/STOP AIDS, Students with Dreams and 'Umunthu', are the core of the Art and Global Health Center. MAKE ART/STOP AIDS brings together uses participatory arts to address issues of stigma, fear, prevention, testing and treatment, culminating in the creation and execution of action plans. Students with Dreams empowers young leaders to create and implement innovative programs in response to challenges they see in society, such as: gender inequality, education, human rights, HIV/AIDS and more. The 'Umunthu' Programme uses the arts to catalyse reflection and discussion, providing a platform to address issues of stigma and discrimination through the lens of “Umunthu.” Art and Global Health Center Africa also ran a successful project in 2016 and 2017 in partnership with World Food Program using Theatre for Development as a methodology for engaging communities around issues relating to food security and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene.

For More information:

https://www.facebook.com/aghcafrica/

http://www.aghcafrica.org/

Read the ArtGlo 2017 annual report here: ArtGlo Annual Report 2017 (low-res)

https://twitter.com/aghcafrica1

 


Scotland-Malawi Partnership: Further and Higher Education Forum

On Wednesday 20th September the Scotland Malawi Partner’s Further and Higher Education Forum met at the Edinburgh City Chambers. Here Dr Mia Perry shared the work that The Sustainable Futures in Africa Network is doing in Malawi including how both academics and NGOs from Malawi form part of this Network that is building capacity, infrastructure and research in socio-ecological sustainability in Africa. Dr Perry also represented colleagues from the University of Glasgow and shared information relating to MALBOP: Malawi – Biology of Parasitology, a interdisciplinary team based at the Institute of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation at the University of Glasgow. Their synergy arises from open flow of information and ideas, from high quality of training, and from close involvement in research communities in both the developed North and the developing South.‌

Dr Mia Perry presenting the Sustainable Futures in Africa Network

Attendees Included:

Dr Perry described the event: “An interesting group of experienced scholars, practitioners, and stakeholders with long ties and connections, both personally and professionally in most cases, with Malawi. The delegates on this occasion were primarily rooted in health sciences, and discussion was largely focused on contributing aid, equipment, programme development to Malawi. Little conversation or project content related to a reciprocal relationship, except for that of cultural and historical ties. In contrast to many international development related networks, the historical and cultural connections of Scotland and Malawi are palpable in this community”

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KBg06kOiHrE

For more information about the Scotland Malawi Partnership, visit: https://www.scotland-malawipartnership.org/

For more information about our partner Abundance, in Malawi - http://abundanceworldwide.weebly.com/malawi.html.

For more information about MALBOP: http://www.gla.ac.uk/researchinstitutes/iii/wtcmp/wellcometrustcentreforglobalhealthresearch/


Reproductive Health at Mbando Village: Dispelling Myths

Making informed choices regarding reproductive health is something that is taken for granted in developed countries with good access to health services. This is often not the case in developing countries, and particularly so at Mbando village which is located by the shores of Lake Chilwa, in Machinga District, southern Malawi. Being one of the poorest countries in the world, Malawi faces a number of challenges, including poor access to reproductive health services and inadequate awareness. Mbando is a small village with 95 households consisting of mostly subsistence farmers and fishermen. It is vulnerable due to being prone to droughts and having few livelihood options. However, there is a vibrant youth community at the village. They have organized themselves into a club called “Wonderful Youth Club”. Being concerned about the high number of teenage pregnancies and many misconceptions regarding reproductive health, this club requested Abundance to hold a training session to discuss sexual and reproductive health.

Stewart Paul, Secretary of Abundance and a person of multiple talents, offered to undertake the training and was the right choice, being a youth himself (22 years old). On the 22nd of July 2017, Stewart joined Ruth Mumba (Director of Abundance) and others to Mbando village to meet with the youth to discuss this important yet often neglected topic. The youth face many challenges including poor access to contraceptives. They said that the nearest clinic was 3 km away and contraceptives were often unavailable and when it is available they were distributed to more established youth clubs in surrounding villages. Youth could not access any “counselling” or knowledge on sexual and reproductive health. Often girls were uncomfortable approaching older women to request for contraceptives at the clinic because they feared being judged immoral.

Stewart Paul talks to the youth, as Ruth Mumba (left) looks on.

It was surprising for Stewart to hear about the myths and misconceptions regarding this topic from the youth:

“Artificial contraception methods lead such as using pills lead to sterility or infertility.”

“When boys use contraception, over a given period of time they lack sexual prowess and stamina”.

Through the training Stewart dispelled some of the myths and provided much needed information to youth about sexual and reproductive health and how contraceptives work. The need for family planning was emphasized and he explained that good sexual and reproductive health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being in all matters relating to the reproductive system. The importance of taking care of the reproductive system to avoid injuries and infection was also emphasized.

The session was only for a few hours and the youth requested for more such sessions to be organized for continued awareness raising on these matters. The access to contraceptives remains a challenge to be overcome. Abundance hopes to collaborate with organizations that provide these services and work towards improving access for youth at Mbando village. We envision a Malawi where all youth will be free to take informed decisions regarding reproductive health. This training was a small step towards that vision, but many more needs to be taken.

 

For more information visit: http://www.abundanceworldwide.org

 @abundanceworldwide

 @Abundance_ww