Why do HEEED Volunteers come to Malawi?

The Lake Malawi Eco-region has been formally recognized by WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) as one of the Global 200 regions with a sensitive ecosystem worthy of conservation. Lake Malawi National Park (LMNP) lies within the Lake Malawi Eco-region and was designated by United Nations in 1984 as a World Heritage Site – in recognition of the high fish species diversity and biological importance of its fauna. The formally pristine Lake Malawi is severely over-fished, threatening to drive to extinction many endemic and endangered fish species. A dramatic increase in deforestation is another threat caused by the fuel needs of the rural communities lying within and around LMNP. With an increased population competing for diminishing natural resources, the task of conservation and environmental education has to include a comprehensive programme that addresses social issues related to the local population. Nowadays, conservation of natural resources, health, environmental and economic development, are all inextricably intertwined and, since 2001, WWF has been seeking sustainable solutions for the people living adjacent to Malawi’s beautiful National Parks (see also the Conservation Article written for TRAVEL MALAWI).

WWF Finland founded and funded HEEED as an NGO and HEEED is now carrying on these intiatives – having received its first 3-year WWF Finland grant in January 2006. In addition to promoting activities in the tourist sector, HEEED is also collaborating with the Department of HIV/AIDS and Nutrition, Office of President and Cabinet (OPC), the Chembe Secondary and Primary Schools,  Malawi Children’s Village (MCV), as well as the Chembe Project  Centre – particularly focused on health issues impacting on both communities and the environment. HEEED is also the recipient of generous donations from various individuals and organizations (Skyband, Rotary, United Nations Development Programme, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF),  ENSOME (Nicaraguan NGO) among others).

The first HEEED Volunteers began arriving at Panda Garden, Chembe – in October 2010.  From different age groups and from different parts of the world, HEEED Volunteers have been slowly increasing.  Volunteers can currently join HEEED staff in any of the following activities and are also encouraged to make suggestions for improving the programme itself. See here what the past volunteers have done.

Overall Objectives of the HEEED Volunteer Programme

  1. Create alternative economic opportunities for local villagers in a sustainable fashion through
    a) developing a fuel briquette and hand-made paper business, using waste vegetation;
    b) fostering an ecotourism industry focused upon the underwater wildlife that is unique to the region;
    c) develop a fish management programme that now includes an aquaculture and agriculture programme adjacent to LMNP (Panda Garden).
  2. Develop an environmental education programme for the local populace on the need to conserve, identify the flora and fauna of LMNP and to understand the biology of their fishes by
    a) initiating a complete survey of the flora, fauna and fishes in LMNP and describing all presently scientifically unidentified species;
    b) producing educational materials for both tourists and local communities, including posters and a guide book to the flora, fauna and fishes of LMNP.
  3. Increase awareness of the bilharzia (schistosomiasis) disease, its connection with the snail-eating fishes and the need to conserve these biological control agents.  This research is carried out from  Cape Maclear together with an evaluation on the effectiveness of a 100 m no fishing zone in the waters of Lake Malawi National Park and in front of the villages of Nankumba Peninsula, and determine if snail-feeding fishes and other economically important fishes increase in numbers within these important breeding grounds.
  4. Foster HIV/AIDS and nutrition awareness/training (particularly among children 6-12- years old) through art, drama and the use of wildlife cartoon characters in an educational booklet entitled “The Hiding Hyena”.
  5. Foster tree-planting of species indigenous to LMNP – in community wood-lots, school-yards and house-holds.
  6. Develop co-operation between International and Malawi schools (connecting both teachers & students) – to increase understanding of the different cultures and motivate Malawian students to take care of the environment in different ways. Children are the future stewards and need to be trained to observe their natural surroundings, understand their relationship with their environment and enable them from an early age to take care of a garden in their primary schools/homes. Through this training, children are made aware of the Web of Life, the need for growing healthy food and how we all depend on our precious natural resources. Children will also understand why the conservation of Malawi’s National Parks is important for their future well-being Children will also learn to understand the main concepts behind the Malawi National Anthem – in particular the need to “eliminate poverty, disease and envy”. This needs to be addressed at all educational levels.
  7. Environmental Education.  This a broad subject and the (free) twice-weekly after-dark evening shows at Panda Garden (currently sponsored by Ensome) cover the range of issues reflected in HEEED’s programme.
  8. Orphan-feeding Programme: beginning May 1st 2013 – 10 children (between the ages of 2-6) will receive a daily meal (fortified Likunipala Porridge), 5 days a week (from 8-11.30am) – during which time, an English teacher will teach, sing and read to them in English.
  9. HEEED Handicrafts. Promote young artists to draw and to produce a variety of hand-made paper products that include cards, books, business cards, gift items.  Creative recycling is the hallmark of this enterprise that also provides an income to HEEED.
  10. Sustainable eco-tourism: education of tourists to avoid purchasing ebony and mahogany (CITES endangered list); active promotion of hiking, kayaking and diving/snorkeling in LMNP.

If you are interested in participating in any of the above activities – please go to the Volunteer Application link and send this by e-mail to Elious Yohane: