Looking out over the yellow landscape in Malawi, there’s no evidence of income-generating solutions on the horizon, unless you know where to look. Opportunities don’t spring up fully formed, they grow, and in Malawi, there’s more than enough room.

24498419634_14fa0e2974_kGroups in the Chigwere, Mjuma, Nikawa, Zimwanda, Kachindahara, Peter Ndabandaba, Matheni, Thomas, and Dapilani communities are each participating in an ongoing reforestation project. Working together as communities and partnering with Outreach facilitators, residents have been busy transplanting 45,000 seedlings onto 10 acres, repopulating the land with new growth to replace trees lost to reckless and unnecessary clear-cutting in previous years. One by one, the seedlings move from containers into the hands of their caretakers, and are nestled into the earth, each a promise of renewable abundance for generations to come.

25129057115_9bd43b6410_kThe new trees, accessed through the communities’ individual and combined proposals to local third-party vendors, will soon boast robust trunks that can be cut for firewood or fashioned into load-bearing supports for the homes in the area, as well as serving as a means of income for locals, who can sell them to surrounding communities for roughly $2.10 apiece over the next 3 to 5 years. By the end of that cycle, newer seedlings will have grown hearty enough to sell, sustaining this level of income.

“The community members are saying that soon, there will be enough food and enough trees around the community, and that the trees will be the end of poverty,” says community partner Kasoti. “People will be healthy and happy thanks to the new resources.”

Reforestation project in MalawiBesides the tangible benefits, the conception and ongoing management of reforestation efforts is an incredible opportunity for communities and individuals to learn how to draft policies and bylaws that govern the project’s particulars, and gain financial and leadership experience they can apply to their respective future endeavors.

The earth in Malawi was seemingly waiting for a chance to forge a partnership with those who walk upon it. The wind slows to a breeze now, through the branches of young trees, and the harsh, unblinking sun gives way to cool, steady shade. Communities throughout the region have found that rather than curse the darkness, they can instead light some firewood.


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