What’s the link between poachers snares, sustainable fuel and women’s empowerment?
We are. At Lilongwe Wildlife Trust we run a number of community engagement projects that link conservation aims with sustainable livelihoods. Two of these projects also seek to empower women.
One of these initiatives trains women living in communities bordering national parks to make bespoke pieces of jewellery out of confiscated snare wire. The project – named ‘Jalawi’ after the phrase, ‘jewellery from Malawi’ – is supported by the Born Free Foundation’s Global Friends Initiative. It has trained 10 women since October 2019 in bespoke jewellery production, enabling them to earn an income for themselves and their families in the process. Once they’ve learned the basic skills, the women work fast and neat, churning out intricate bracelets, necklaces, earrings and keyrings for sale in the capital city, Lilongwe.
Research shows that supporting women’s economic empowerment generates stronger social outcomes, since women are more likely than men to invest their income back into the health and wellbeing of their families. Women can also make powerful conservation ambassadors – something we have also witnessed – as access to our local offices has enabled the women to learn more about wildlife conservation and pass on vital knowledge to their communities about the risks that come with poaching.
One of the women, Anita Banda, of Kalima village in Kasungu District, told us: “For a long time, my family depended on farming as a source of money, but we realised little harvests due to climate change. Financial constraints meant we couldn’t purchase things like fertilizer. This subjected us to constant suffering as we did not have any alternative means of sourcing money. Now we are able to meet most of our basic needs, thanks to the jewellery production skills we have learned. LWT gives us all necessary materials required to make the products. This opportunity is greatly improving our economic status.”
In Lilongwe, our Environmental Education team is working with another group of entrepreneurial spirits named the Tingathe Widows to produce briquettes – a biofuel substitute for coal and charcoal. These five women have been working with us since 2015 and make an incredible 10,000 briquettes a year, with an average of 1000-1500 briquettes produced a month!
The original idea for this initiative came from the women themselves, who approached us for help. With business management and production training facilitated by LWT and the Energy Affairs Department, these women have shown themselves to be an unstoppable force, and are now spreading their knowledge by training other groups interested in getting involved in briquette making.
For those based in Lilongwe, Jalawi jewellery can be purchased at the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre.