Updated: Jan 2, 2020
The good news from Malawi is that the health and welfare of people are increasing. This is partly due to wonderful NGOs, such as those who have supplied mosquito nets to help prevent the spread of malaria and installed boreholes with water pumps to provide communities with clean accessible drinking water. The impact of this work has reduced the number of premature deaths in Malawi, which has accelerated population increase.
In rural Malawi, people live humble, traditional lives, and their impact on the planet is minimal compared to the average occupant of the developed world. However, their dependence on timber as a building resource, and for firewood, has resulted in major deforestation across Malawi as population has risen. When the Chichlowski family purchased 'Fisherman's Rest' in 1996, the land around the old fishing clubhouse had been almost completely cleared of trees, as had most of the surrounding landscape. The Chichlowskis replanted the 500 acres at Fisherman's Rest, which has now developed into a reforested area that leapt out of the landscape at us as we drove north towards Blantyre.
As well as replanting their own forest, the Chichlowskis began growing saplings in nurseries for the community. Through their newly established charity, Fisherman's Rest, they began tree planting in local schools and provided an education programme to raise awareness of the importance of trees. To date, Fisherman's Rest have set up 15 protected woodlots in schools and have planted more than 50,000 trees accross local communities.
Whilst addressing deforestation, the Fisherman's Rest team saw opportunities to help and empower local people, and embarked upon several projects to support local communities.
They began with a water project - to drill and maintain boreholes in rural communities to provide clean, safe drinking water. Today the focus of this project is on sustaining existing boreholes, through logging borehole locations and empowering the local communities to repair and maintain their boreholes. To date 700 boreholes have been repaired through this project.
Fisherman's Rest also supply fortified porridge to more than 7,000 school children. The wholesome breakfast is cooked by members of the communities each weekday morning. The traditional method of cooking is to light three fires between a triangle of rocks with a single cooking pot on top. This method uses a lot of firewood, contributing to deforestation, something which concerned the Chichlowskis and countered their reforestation efforts.
To address this issue, Fisherman's Rest launched their Changu Changu Moto project - a true example of how conservation and community support can work hand in hand to provide win-win solutions. The Changu Changu Moto (which means Fast Fast Fire in English) is an energy-efficient clay cooking stove, which can be constructed by natural, freely available materials that can be found and gathered locally. Fisherman's Rest have built large stoves in schools and community buildings where the school feeding programme has been implemented. They now train people in the community to build domestic stoves in their village kitchens. These simple but clever stoves reduce the amount of firewood required by two thirds, and can accommodate two cooking pots at a time. The wood saving helps to slow deforestation whilst reducing the time and effort required by family members to gather firewood. The stoves also reduce the risk of bush fires, and produce less harmful smoke than traditional cooking fires. Fisherman's Rest train groups of people in a community to build the stoves, a task so simple (when you know how) that even we managed it (with a bit of guidance)!
In 2018 Fisherman's Rest merged the Changu Changu Moto project with their reforestation project and began supplying seeds and tree tubes to community members who built a clay stove, to begin planting a woodlot in their gardens. By the end of 2018, 250 stoves had been built and over 4,000 seeds and tubes distributed.
Fisherman's Rest is still run by the Chichlowski family today. Guests staying at the lodge have always been encouraged to participate in projects, and currently guests can learn how to build a Changu Changu Moto stove, and enjoy involvement in any other of Fisherman's Rest's nine fantastic community projects.