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Magret Ngoleka, from Kutchili village, Traditional Authority Lundu in Blantyre today perceives life differently. She was once a perpetual charcoal producer, especially after Malawi’s multiparty dispensation in 1994.Ngoleka, a mother of five boldly admits that she has in the past contributed to the wanton cutting down of trees on the towering Chivumbe Hill. Her village, and in particular her house, is on the foot of this hill.” I used to produce between 40 to 50 bags of charcoal from 30 big logs of trees a week. And I have done for years,” lamented Ngoleka. But her story changed for good in 2015 when a local Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) called Foundation for Irrigation and Sustainable Development (FISD), with financial support from MCA-Malawi, came into their area on a mission to help the community manage and sustain utilization of forests and promotion of individual woodlots, tree planting, among others.

Ngoleka, is among 13,000 farm facilities in the sub-catchment are targeted for participation in the approaches for management, conservation and protection of natural resources.

“When FISD came here, I was convinced beyond doubt that charcoal production is costly and that it was high time I stopped charcoal business,” she says.

She explains that it was during the same year when she and other men and women within the neighborhood, were trained in Village Savings and Loans (VSLs).She joined Sasamba VSL Group which has a total membership of 30 people and meet every Tuesday. Ngoleka, just like other members, are spinning money using this group and they are drawing capital for boosting their small-scale businesses. Since then, she has been able to operate several environmentally-friendly businesses. She is also into commercial maize farming and when we visited her house in the afternoon on 12/02/18, she was in the thick of selling the grain. Such small scale businesses are what have given her a magic wand to stop cutting down trees in the area.

The FISD project is being implemented in the Lunzu-Linjidzi catchment and is contributing towards sustainable community poverty reduction through social economic empowerment.