Last year Lilongwe Wildlife Trust took its environmental education programme out of school classrooms and into a prison.

Inmates at Rumphi Prison in Malawi’s Northern Region were given the chance to join an educational wildlife club, hosted by the prison warden, in order to learn more about the importance of conservation.

After joining our teacher training sessions, the warden delivered our curriculum to 58 inmates. The programme targets wildlife offenders but is open to anyone with an interest in conservation (50% of the club members were serving sentences for wildlife offences). Modules cover a wide range of environmental issues, from human-wildlife conflict, biodiversity and deforestation to waste management and wildlife crime.

We recently caught up with some of the former members who have since been released to find out how participating in the club had impacted them. One participant, who had served as the club secretary and chair, had completed his 30-month custodial sentence and then gone on to set up a small-scale nursery, growing flowers, fruits and pine trees in Mzuzu (pictured above).

He had learned vital skills during his time at Rumphi Prison from gardening and tree management programmes delivered by the prison warden. His goal is to scale up his business and reach a larger market further afield. He has become a true conservation ambassador – in addition to embarking on a sustainable green enterprise, he also requested copies of our educational materials so that he can share his knowledge and engage others in his community on conservation issues.

Two other former inmates have also supported LWT’s wider outreach work by sharing their personal stories with the media and warning communities of the legal penalties for engaging in wildlife crime.

The wildlife club at Rumphi Prison continues to educate and inspire its members to recognise the value in protecting natural resources. Among other activities, the club plans to raise 10,000 seedlings for the forthcoming tree planting season (pictured below). We are also exploring opportunities to develop programmes that will equip prisoners with skills to gain employment after being released from prison and avoid falling back into illegal activities.

Find out more about our environmental education work.