Beyond Our Hearts Foundation Empowers Women in Neno District for Disaster Risk Reduction
Neno District is known for being affected by disasters every year during the rainy season, writes Blessings Tambala.
Malawi-Neno District is known for being affected by disasters every year during the rainy season, writes Blessings Tambala.
The disasters, including lightning, heavy rains, winds, and floods, destroy crops, houses, and schools, and even claim lives.
Among the affected areas are Senior Chief Dambe and Traditional Authority Chekucheku, which struggle with heavy rains, winds, and lightning due to their geographical location, careless tree cutting, and lack of knowledge on how to avoid natural disasters.
To address the issue, Beyond Our Hearts Foundation, a local organization established in 2014, is implementing the Localization Pilot Project, funded by Save the Children Italy.
The project aims to strengthen the preparedness, early warning, and early action system by acting on inter-institutional coordination and strengthening the capacity of local partners for prevention, preparation, and humanitarian response.
According to the organization's policy, women's and children's participation in building poor people's capacity towards disaster risk reduction and climate resilience is given special emphasis.
As a result of the project, women like Liness Malingamoyo, a 56-year-old woman of Traditional Authority Mlauli in the district, have been empowered to take part in disaster recovery and management.
"Now we are able to plant trees, and practice modern agriculture methods like irrigation farming, which allows us to harvest high crop yields even when we receive little rain," disclosed Malingamoyo.
In coordination with Neno District Council and with support from Save the Children, the organization conducted a participatory vulnerability capacity assessment in all four Traditional Authorities. Community members were trained on how to prepare before disasters strike and also how to respond and recover when disasters hit them.
Through the project, Beyond Our Hearts Foundation is making a significant contribution to disaster risk reduction and sustainable livelihood development in the district.
Senior Chief Mlauli of the district has praised Beyond Our Hearts Foundation (BOHF) for its disaster preparedness initiative, which has helped villagers be aware and prepared using local early warning systems.
"Most of our villages are in hills and others are in lower-lying areas due to the district’s topography, which puts us at risk of disasters like heavy winds and rains, floods, and sometimes droughts, but with the coming in of this program, we have learned to get prepared for such disasters, so that we don’t get negatively affected," said Mlauli.
The chiefs in the district have also strengthened their bylaws to protect trees and forests, and give stiffer punishment to those who cut down trees for charcoal.
"The organization has helped us through their awareness campaigns, and we have learned to come up with bylaws that help to stop the acts of cutting down trees carelessly," added Mlauli.
According to Beyond Our Hearts Foundation Project Officer Mavis Sambakunsi, the project understands the need to build people's capacity to respond to natural disasters, as Malawi continues to struggle with responses to various natural disasters, such as floods, due to a lack of capacity and community participation.
However, the project, which began in 2021, faces challenges as some villagers resist changing their mindset on cutting down trees for charcoal, which they see as a daily source of income.
Neno District is one of the main exporters of charcoal, with almost 500 bags exported daily to Blantyre District, according to reports.