Strong community foundations for sustainable national development 

Linda Msiska is a charismatic head teacher at Chipoka 1 Primary School which lies a few miles from the defunct Chipoka Port along shores of Lake Malawi in Salima District.

Under her tutelage, the school strives to perform well during national exams against a backdrop of inadequate staff members and poor infrastructure for both classroom facilities and teachers’ accommodation.

“We only have 13 teachers against 1072 students because we do not have enough houses hence teachers turn us down when they are deployed here,

“There are only six houses which are also in dilapidated state and this is a big challenge because it affects our teaching capacity against the enrollment,” laments Msiska.

Msiska: The renovated house will accommodate student-teachers who will boost our staff

The Chipoka community is home to over 35,000 households as such one Cannon Chenjezi who is the founder and Executive Director of Luso Langa Community Foundation decided to raise K800,00 from the community for renovations using a gospel music fundraising show.

Chenjezi says their area barely has meaningful development projects within the last two decades hence driven by ‘anger’, in 2017 he formed a blended team of youthful and order people with different skills to promote local mobilisation of resources for community projects.

“We want to renovate teachers houses at Chipoka 1 and Chitipi Primary Schools and a Community Based Care Centre at Muonekera, it is possible to raise funds from the community for local projects without waiting for politicians or Non-Govermental Organisations (NGOS), 

“This is our 8th development project since our establishment, we would like to show that communities can be resilient and independent we just need to be creative in resource mobilisation with a changed mindset,” says Chenjezi.

Through proceeds from the gospel show and contributions from Chipoka residents including those migrated in diaspora, Chipoka Primary School can now accommodate student-teachers from Lilongwe Teachers Training College (TTC) in a refurbished house.

One of the teachers houses at Chipoka Primary School to be renovated

“We are very happy that next term our staff will be boosted by the student-teachers who will be staying in a smart and secure house this will improve the teaching and learning process thanks to the efforts of the community foundation,” says Msiska, the head teacher.

Apart from the supporting basic education, Luso Langa Foundation is also championing free technical skills training for Chipoka youth as well poultry farming at their base in Justin village.

The exploits by Luso Langa Foundation in promoting local giving and project ownership by communities are being mirrored by nine other Community Foundations (CFs) which were transitioned from community based organizations by World Connect Malawi (WCM), an NGO that invests directly in the ideas of communities and empowering them to be self-reliant for sustainable development.

“We cannot talk about our progress without WCM, since 2019 they have groomed us into who are we today such that we engaging an extra gear in mobilizing sources through matching grants by giving the community an equal amount of money they can raise for a targeted project,” says Chenjezi.

Communications and Outreach Coordinator for WCM Danielsoni says with support from Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, they have worked with 10 Community Based Organizations across 10 districts in a Pioneer Community Foundations Development Project.

Chisoni adds that the initiative which has also been recently boosted with support from African Philanthropic Network (APN), focuses on small-scale but impactful projects that have been collectively identified and prioritized by the community. 

Unlike traditional NGOs which often focus on themes as dictated by donors, the CFs initiate local multifaceted projects across sectors of education, health, culture, agriculture, infrastructural development and climate change using funds mobilized from the community.

“Community Foundations are a powerful tool for sustainable development because by mobilizing local contributions they empower communities to determine their own priorities, this approach allows the people to select development projects that best suit their needs, 

“We have enhanced their capacity by facilitating their registration as Local Civil Society Organizations, providing training in local giving, supporting the knowledge building among communities and coaching on local fundraising,” says Chisoni.

At a glance, the power shift engrained in community foundations is vital in the realms of national development as it promotes self-reliance by communities coupled with ownership of projects which augments sustainability of projects.

Since 2018, WCM has supported over 270 locally-led development projects across Malawian communities impacting the health, education, environment, human rights, and economic advancement of 300,000+ Malawians and advancing Sustainable Development Goals and the goals of the national Malawi Strategy 2063.

The advent of their Community Foundations Development Project in 2019 has effected more positive change in Malawi as communities are now mobilizing resources and fostering collaboration with various stakeholders to conduct needs assessments and tailor solutions to community challenges. 

Community development expert Prince Chizimba observes that adoption of the community foundations which work hand in hand with existing local government structures at grassroots level can propel Malawi into a self-reliant nation with sustainable socioeconomic development.

“This is a powerful tool capable of facilitating sustainable development in communities because through these local giving and fundraising initiatives for community projects, we can erode the spirit of dependency which is engrained in the nation despite our sovereignity since 1964,” says Chizimba

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