wag-malawi.org - Announcement

Announcement

We are currently working on a brand new website with a fresh design and content. It will also be possible to provide informations very promptly. So it's worth checking out this site regularly!

By the way: at this opportunity the new website has gotten a facelift too.


M - little bit of M for Malawi Magic



September 2019

A little bit of M for Malawi Magic (WAG MALAWI FACEBOOK Video Channel)

-> A little bit of M for Malawi Magic (WAG MALAWI FACEBOOK Video Channel)

Somewhere between April and July 2019 the stars aligned, and over 900 people living close to Thuma Forest Reserve in one of the poorest regions of Malawi saw the benefit of living close to the forest.

Wildlife Action Group (WAG) is a Malawian conservation NGO, a non-profit responsible for the protection and rehabilitation of two forest reserves, home to important elephant populations, in Central Malawi. The environment is directly linked to the people's health, and one of our top priorities besides habitat and wildlife protection is to work closely with communities, developing alternative income activities and improving the lives of those living closest to the protected areas.

Through close consultation with Traditional Authorities we have been able to learn about some of the most pressing needs in villages close to the reserves. Access to clean water and improved food production were top of that list. Women were spending as much as 6-8 hours every day fetching water, often setting off during the night, and drawing water from the same places as livestock and wild animals diseases such as cholera are a huge concern.

 

Enter Marcus Westberg, a professional conservation and humanitarian photographer from Sweden who has been visiting Malawi for years and has many deep, close connections here. Marcus visited Thuma Forest in April to help us take photos of our rangers, and this is where we discussed the need to find funds for boreholes.

And this is when the magic started.

Marcus has links with a company called Nu Skin Enterprises, whose non-profit Force For Good Foundation (FFG) has been supporting projects in Malawi for over a decade. Marcus has coordinated FFG fundraising efforts amongst a large group of their European distributors (“One Team Global”) for several years, largely for boreholes, and although he made no promises he understood our plight and said he would ask if WAG community need could be included as a beneficiary of this year’s fundraising efforts.

Force For Good Foundation (FFG)

Force For Good Foundation (FFG)

By the end of May, the funds had been raised for projects in Malawi through the incredible kindness and generosity of Nu Skin distributors from all over Europe, but it was still unclear whether WAG communities would receive the necessary funding for three boreholes. However, when Ben Chingwalu, Director of Nu Skin’s agricultural outreach program, SAFI Extension - SAFI stands for School of Agriculture for Family Independence - which is a major beneficiary of FFG funds was consulted, he along with Goodwell Banda, Director of the main SAFI campus, and with the support of Stephen Hunsaker and Veronica Jensen from Nu Skin, agreed to use some of the funding raised by the European distributors to construct the three boreholes, but to also include those communities in the SAFI Extension program - which would also train and set up nearly 200 families in gardening, crop production and animal husbandry over the course of a year! Not only did Ben recognize the need of these communities, he was also very excited to, for the first time, combine these humanitarian efforts with a conservation project, involving FFG in the protection of Malawi’s natural habitats and wildlife.

SAFI - School of Agriculture for Family

SAFI - School of Agriculture for Family

The dream was about to become a reality.

In June, Ben and his team came to make field visits together with Stephen, visiting from the US.

By July, the boreholes were already drilled and agricultural training had begun. Normally the boreholes are only constructed at the end of the training as a reward if the communities fully commit, but WAG and Marcus requested that an exception be made, and recognizing that the agricultural training would be impossible without access to water Ben very kindly agreed to put them in right away, even before the money had been received.

 

Through SAFI Extension, the families:

  • learn to create fertilizer and compost manure, leading to increased crop yields;
  • are provided with the material to build their own vegetable gardens and taught methods of rotating the crops to ensure continuous production, meaning that they don’t have to spend money on vegetables and can even sell the surplus production;
  • learn about drip irrigation, nutrition and sanitation (hand washing devices), as well as building more fuel-efficient stoves; and
  • learn to raise rabbits and chickens, both as a source of protein and to sell.

The whole thing is done with the understanding that the families must “pay it forward” by sharing both knowledge and supplies with their neighbors as they become more successful.

 

The grand finale was when we received visits from some of the actual donors, mainly from Sweden, led by Marcus and Ben, including for the inauguration of one of the boreholes in early August. There was dancing and singing by all, and much emotion from both sides. The feeling of joy and pride was unbelievable: one 60 year old woman, Mama Kadula, told us how this was the first time in her entire life that she had tasted clean water (!), and one of the chiefs told us that in the one month since the installation of the borehole, the diarrhea almost everyone had been suffering from was virtually gone. Others told us how with amazement that already within a few months they would no longer have to walk 15km in each direction to buy vegetables at the market, something they had never believed would be possible, and that the money saved would be used to pay for school fees and uniforms for their children.

 

Although Marcus had been asked to cut the ribbon of the borehole as a thank you for making all this possible, he unexpectedly passed this honor to Mama Kadula and the Group Village Headman, which was much appreciated by the hundreds of people who were there to partake in the celebrations.

 

We at Wildlife Acton Group cannot put into words how grateful we are for these interventions in these extremely poor areas. Not only has this improved the quality of many people's lives - it is also having a deep, positive impact on the relationship between these protected areas and the surrounding communities, strengthening the protection of wildlife which includes some of the last remaining escarpment elephants in Africa. We hope that this will be the first of other such innovative interventions around Thuma Forest Reserve.

A huge, huge thank you to everyone who supported these efforts: to Nu Skin, for all the important work you do through FFG in Malawi and for entering into this collaboration with WAG; to OTG and all the donors in Europe without whose generosity none of this would have been possible; to the entire team at SAFI Extension, but especially to Ben Chingwalu, whose clear vision and commitment will forever change these communities; and to Marcus Westberg, the man with the heart of gold whose goodness who made all this magic happen. 

Zikomo Kambiri (thank you so much) on behalf of the people and elephants of Thuma Forest - please enjoy this video and photos from the inauguration, and feel free to share this post with anyone who supported these wonderful efforts. 


WAG - Conservation Volunteer Program - Information pack



July 2019

>WAG - Conservation Volunteer Program - Information pack

We look forward to welcoming you to Malawi’s Thuma Forest Reserve, a unique chance to make a personal difference, and a real contribution to conservation in Malawi. We hope you find the following information pack helpful.


Thuma Telegraph 01/2019 - Greeting



May 2019

Dear donors, friends and supportersWelcome to the next edition of the Thuma Telegraph!

Malawi has been blessed with long rains which started in November 2018 and have just ended last month. The forest is lush and as we head towards the end of May, rivers and streams are flowing at full capacity and our wildlife population is enjoying the availability of water and food.

LAW ENFORCMENT WORK SHOP

April 2019 saw our fifth law
enforcement workshop take
place in Thuma. This is a
time to sit down with our
law enforcement stakeholders,
a chance to share any changes and
updates in national regulations,
present an overview of our arrests
and court outcomes from the previous year,
discuss the challenges and most importantly
to find ways to work closer together
to protect Malawi's environment.

At the end of March, we unfortunately found a dead elephant that had been poached by a snare poacher. Three suspects have been subsequently arrested and prosecuted. Not a great end to the first quarter of the year but we continue to try and limit such tragic events happening!

On a positive front, we were awarded several new funding streams during the month of April. This vital funding will help strengthen law enforcement across the reserve, enhance Human-Elephant coexistence and strengthen community development. All proceeds are paramount to the ongoing efforts to protect the wildlife, their habitat and the goals of the project.

Geoffrey

Geoffrey
Geoffrey was a born leader, and was very much a
people person, sociable and dependant. This made
him extremely successful at getting information
and he was well known and liked by all who met
him. He was an all rounder including being a skilled
ranger, with many excellent arrests under his
belt. His hunger for knowledge made him
excellent in many other aspects of our work,
including fence building, community work,
research and car mechanics to name a few.

I also have some bad news to share, in relation to our dedicated ranger team which has shocked us to the core. Geoffrey Umali, was involved in a tragic road traffic accident and diedof his injuries. Geoffrey was a senior ranger at Thuma. A brilliant ranger, with the heart of an elephant, he is sorely missed by us all.

We will dedicate our work this year, to the memory of Geoffrey. His spirit and work ethic continues in our work, andhe will never be forgotten. Rest in peace, Geoffrey.

Warm regards

Lynn and Scouts


ANNUAL REPORT 2018 - Director's Note



February 2019

Despite worldwide efforts to stop the illegal trade of ivory, the insatiable demand continues to be the major driver that will lead to the extinction of the African elephant. New players in the illegal wildlife trade such as Vietnam and Laos are continuing to feed the demand in China and other countries. This impacts even small countries like Malawi and even Thuma and Dedza Salima, over the years have seen their fair share of killing to supply this demand.

WAG Annual Report 2018

However, illegal wildlife trade is not the only driver . In a developing country like Malawi, a massive population growth and the ever increasing need for land for subsistence farming, leaves protected areas under massive pressure and co-existence with wildlife becomes a conflict zone. In the 8 short years I have been working here at WAG, I have seen the negative impacts of this conflict on both the communities and the wildlife in and around the Thuma and Dedza Salima Forest Reserves. Crop damage in areas where food security is paramount to survival resulting in the loss of life of community members protecting their lands and consequently elephants being killed, leading to much anger and pressure from all sides.

One of the priority activities of WAG is securing funding and working with communities to adress human elefant conflict by installing solar powered fences to ensure personal safety and food security for those living close to the forestboundaries. By the end of November 2018 we had extended the solar powered electric fence a further 11km on the north and western boundary of Thuma bringing the length of the fence to 85km providing relief and security to many villagers. In addition ,we built a camp in this area to maintain law enforcement efforts and monitor wildlife movements. Surprisingly, elephants moved into this area in Novem- ber and a large number of family herds and bulls are still there enjoying bamboo, grass and newly regenerating trees in peace. It is interesting to note that our figures from 2013 to date show a direct correlation between Human Elephant Conflict and the hunting and killing of these giants. As HEC continues to move into new areas so will the need to extend the fence. Our mission is to complete the fence line before the end of 2019 which will enclose all of Thuma Forest Reserve once and for all, then we need to fence Dedza-Salima Escarpment Forest Reserve.

Our Law enforcement effort in 2018 saw 1637 long and short patrols conducted (16412km all by foot), and the range of patrols ensured for the first time full coverage of Thuma Forest (see maps) and the pushing back of most illegal activities close to the boundaries.

Areas where there is no fence shows highest levels of illegal activity plus known hot spots for gun poachers, elephant poachers and people poaching with dogs, high reliance of forest activity and of course HEC. We invested much effort into training at the beginning of the year introducing and fine tuning skills of rangers. Mi- dyear we formed a new investigation and intel unit, who are targeting hot spot areas and an informer network is proving fruitful with NO elephant fatalities due to poaching in 2018. We have seen a spike in other poaching types such as snares, hunting with dogs and gun poaching and Charcoal burning has moved from Thuma to Dedza Salima where we are seeing serious deforestation - just along the boundaries. The conflict between rangers and poachers / charcoal burners is ever present resulting in a new camp being attacked and destroy- ed, although thankfully no one was injured. Our court monitoring system revealed positive changes and most arrests were prosecuted and court outcomes harsh enough to be seen as a serious deterrent at village level. Communities remain at the forefront of our work, and building relations, raising awareness, introducing and working closely on small income activities and securing people crops has become a vital part of our work . Without the support of our communities we cannot protect both Reserves and the wildlife living here. Tracking and monitoring of problem elephants (2) with the support from other conservation partners na- tionally and internationally, we placed two satellite collars on two bull elephants to enable us to track their movements. The valuable data obtained from the collars is significant and we hope to increase the number of collared elephants to continue to help our effort in monitoring and protecting some of the last remaining escarpment elephants in Africa.

Research and development is very much part of our day to day activities and our data collection assists gre- atly in adapting management plans and patrols. We had a really pleasant surprise when we discovered a small herd of Eland also living in Thuma and then some months later found 2 new calves born to the herd, showing Thuma is still keeping her secrets from us..

2018 saw first two donations from inside Malawi, big thanks to Skyband and Limbe Leaf. Certainly our work to protect and restore is far from over, and we have much planned for 2019. We remain dedicated to continue our work to safeguard the habitat, wildlife and communities in and around the Thuma and Dedza Salima Forest Reserves.

On behalf of myself and everyone Wildlife Action Group, I extend my sincere gratitude to all of those who have shown so much commitment and supported us over the years. I Especially thank those working on the front lines as we continue this journey of protection and restoration.

Yours sincerely

Lynn Clifford


Irrigation Garden Project - A Success Story



January 2019

Mrs Honey and her family

Mrs Honey

Conservation is not only about wildlife: This is Mrs Honey, who has been able to send one of her daughters to secondary school with income she has earned from a small but successful irrigation garden set up by WAG. She is very proud and already looking forward to the growing season later this year. Funding comes from USFWS and technician support from Usaid.

Relieving the need for people to hunt and cut trees - in partnership with 'The Tuesday Trust', an irrigation garden has been established. We support vulnerable ladies growing a variety of vegetables which in turn gives them a reliable income and food security for their families.

We are very thankful for the support of our generous donors and partners in our continuous effort to protect Malawi’s forest and wildlife for future generations. THANK YOU!