our work

in malawi


With up to 85% of the population dependent on agriculture for food and livelihoods, many farming communities in Malawi are struggling to cope with the added impact of climate change.Self Help Africa is working on a combination of directly implemented and partner-led projects in Malawi. The programme goal, to support smallholder farming communities to achieve sustainable livelihoods, is in line with the government’s current Growth and Development Strategy II.
The largest single project is DISCOVER, a five-year collaborative venture with a number of international partners that is seeking to support households to adapt to climate change.

Full Name: Republic of Malawi
Population: 19.16 million (World Bank, 2018)
Population Growth (Yearly)2.91%
Capital: Lilongwe
Area: 118,484 SQ KM (45,747 SQ Miles)
Major Languages: English (Official), Chichewa, Numerous indigenous languages
Major Religions: Christianity, Islam, Traditional Beliefs

Malawi projects

Scaling Rural Women Entrepreneurs for Community-Led Digital Adaptation & Resilience (RWE)


Objective: The overall aim of the Rural Women Entrepreneurs – Malawi (RWE-Malawi) project is to empower rural female entrepreneurs using the Women Business Centres (WBCs) approach to reach the most vulnerable members of their communities with an array of opensource digital tools that support their health and wellbeing, while also aiding in economic recovery.  

The Scaling Rural Women Entrepreneurs for Community-Led Digital Adaptation & Resilience in Africa project, implemented in Nigeria, Kenya, and Malawi, combines the lessons learned in Bangladesh from the women-led social enterprise model and the collaborative development practices honed through the GIZ-funded Mobilizing Rural Women Entrepreneurs for COVID-19 Response and Recovery in Rural Bangladesh project. In Malawi, the RWE project builds on 5 existing co-operatives and 20 productive groups established through the ongoing work of SHA/UP in Dedza. Existing women’s enterprise groups will undertake contextually tailored market assessments intended to identify key opportunities for enterprise skill development around health & wellbeing. In response to the findings, digital tools for skill development and social marketing will be introduced for rural women entrepreneurs alongside public and private digital health services like telemedicine and smart register platforms. More than just businesses, WBCs will play an integral role in reducing social barriers to accessing primary and preventative healthcare for women and vulnerable members of their communities alongside agroecological extension services and other wellbeing promotion activities that intersect through their social marketing approach. The proposed pilot will explore the relevance and efficacy of this “Women Business Centre” model as an approach to increase food and income security through provision of financial literacy and business skills training while also facilitating health promotion and to test how digital tools can support this. 

  • 34,000 individuals, at least 40% of whom are women, accessing information and resources through the project 

Sustainable Production, Economic growth, Accountability and Resilience (SPEAR)


Objective: Increase food and income security for those most vulnerable to climate change  

The SPEAR project will benefit 19,878 households with improved food and nutrition security. The project will focus on crops/technologies with the highest adoption rates, most sustained success and highest market demand - especially high-value, nutrition dense and nontraditional crops such as Nua beans. The programme has been designed based on the outcomes, results and learnings from the ASPIRE, ACCESS and SUN projects implemented since 2017 by United Purpose in partnership with the Embassy of Ireland in Malawi. Year one of the programme is specifically designed as a bridging year as UP’s partnership with Ireland transitions from the Embassy in Malawi to Dublin. The new programme takes an ambitious path to consolidate the previously separate energy and resilience programmes and integrate them in a multi-sectoral approach, recognising that communities’ needs require a holistic response to achieve their aims. The programme will move beyond food security and subsistence farming, lifting peoples’ sights to growth and scale at cooperative level. To this end, UP will bring in the strengths and experience of partner organisations CUMO microfinance and Kadale Consultants to address the challenges faced by small businesses and cooperatives to scale their endeavours. 

  • 19,878 households

Nutrition & Food Security, Enhanced Resilience Programme (FNSP)

Dedza and Balaka 

Objective: Improve the nutritional status and resilience to food crises of people in Dedza district who are vulnerable to nutrition insecurity, specifically 18,277 children under-two and 11,770 pregnant and lactating women. 

 The Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement was adopted in Malawi in recognition of the negative impacts of malnutrition, in particular stunting, on human growth, development and national economic growth. SUN is a global movement aimed at repositioning nutrition at the centre of national development efforts and accelerating the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly goal number two on zero hunger which aims to end hunger and all forms of malnutrition by 2030. 

This project builds on eight years of implementation of activities under the Malawi SUN implementation plan in Dedza/Balaka respectively. United Purpose has been implementing the Scaling up Nutrition (SUN) programme since 2012 in Dedza with support from Irish Aid. In addition, since 2015 UP implemented activities under the SUN framework in Chauma, Dedza, through funding from GIZ/FNSP to improve the nutritional situation of women of reproductive age and children under-two. 

Livelihoods Chitetezo Project

Zomba and Machinga

The project combines the cookstove project with integrated WASH programming, targeting some of the poorest rural and peri-urban communities in the southern region. As well as realising over 1 million carbon credits, the project will also have a number of other social, economic and environmental impacts, such as reduction in fuel collection time, income generating opportunities for production groups and agents, reductions in forest degradation, as we as improved access to safe water, resulting in lower incidences of waterborne diseases. This effort is spearheaded by the National Cookstove Steering Committee, which is chaired by the Department of Energy Affairs, with United Purpose acting as the Secretariat.  

Rural Energy Access through Social Enterprise and Decentralisation (EASE)

Dedza and and Balaka Districts 

Objective: Increased access to sustainable energy enables economic development and improved livelihoods for rural communities in Malawi. 

EASE is a Scottish Government funded partnership project between the University of 
Strathclyde, United Purpose Malawi, Community Energy Malawi and WASHTED. The 
project works to address energy poverty in marginalised communities in Dedza and Balaka districts through the deployment of appropriate renewable energy infrastructure and service provision, developing sustainable business models and supporting the delivery of national policy regarding energy access and decentralisation. Specifically, the EASE project aims to support SDG7 and SE4All targets by deploying solar PV microgrids and energy hubs, and by placing Malawi’s first District Energy officers in Dedza and Balaka to undertake a range  of capacity building activities. 

The EASE project works with local and national structures to address energy poverty in marginalised rural communities in Dedza and Balaka Districts through the deployment of appropriate renewable energy infrastructure and service provision, under sustainable social business models and decentralised energy strategy. 

  • 10,000  households

Energising Development (EnDev)-Commercialisation of the Chitetezo Mbaula

Southern Malawi

Objective: The project aims to strengthen and liberalise the chitetezo mbaula (an improved firewood cookstove) market system and supply chain. 

Contribute towards the National Cookstove Steering Committee target of 2 million stoves by 2020 through the creation of a vibrant cookstove sector. The EnDev Commercial project has been working to move the rural cookstove market from the pre-commercial to the pioneering phase of market development. Focusing on three main areas (1) Increased supply of quality stoves (2) establishment of regional warehousing structures and (3) increased awareness through marketing campaigns, the project supported the production, distribution and sale. The project is now supporting the rural market to transition from the Pioneering to the Expansion phase.  

  •  120,000 stoves sold 


Mulanje and Zomba 

Objective: To contribute to reduction of poverty through enhancing resilience among the most vulnerable households in Malawi   

This consortium programme, led by UP and implemented together with Save the Children, aims to build resilience to climate change and other shocks, including COVID-19. Working with households who are part of the Government of Malawi’s Social Cash Transfer Programme (i.e. the poorest 10% of Malawi’s population) in Mulanje and Zomba districts, this programme is a continuation of the €4.7M Pro-Resilience Action project, funded by the EU (2018 – 2021), piloting an approach to transition people out of the social cash transfer programme. 

  • 68,231 households  

Reaching Our Goals


Objective: This project will target 233 of the most marginalised girls and 35 boys aged 15-19 in rural Dedza District, who have either never been to school or dropped out without gaining functional literacy or numeracy. They are currently enrolled in Link’s TEAM Girl Malawi project, which provides accelerated learning and supports transition back into school, training or employment. 

 The project aims to improve adolescent girls’ ability to make informed decisions about their future, better enabling them to lead the lives they choose. In selected TEAM Girl Malawi Learning Centres, where attendance is lowest and the risk of dropout and failure is highest, Reaching ourGoals provides additional support to enable the most vulnerable to complete the programme, and follow their chosen transition pathway route: (re)enrol in mainstream primary school, engage in vocational training, or enter safe, fairly-paid employment. A fourth pathway is return to family life of their choosing, with capacity to negotiate household roles, marriage, and childbearing. Simultaneously, the project works through community and government structures to make education and work more accessible and inclusive of marginalised adolescent girls. 

  • 233 Girls  


Improving food security and economic empowerment for smallholder farmers (Ag-DIV scale-up)

Dedza and Balaka 

Objective: To contribute towards bringing a significant reduction in poverty, gender inequality, and stunting in Dedza and Balaka. 

United Purpose (UP) is currently implementing a 12-month USAID-funded Feed the Future –Agriculture Diversification (FtF -AgDiv) project in the southern region of Malawi (Balaka district) and central region (Dedza district). The overall objective of this project is to contribute to bringing a significant reduction in poverty, gender inequality, and stunting in Dedza and Balaka. The specific objective is to increase the adaptive capacity of female and male smallholder farmers to respond to the impact of climate change and improve their nutritional status. This will be achieved through increased productivity; stronger high value, nutrient-rich value chains; and increased positive nutritional behaviour change. 

  •  15,000 households 

Dowa Integrated WASH Project Phase 5


Objective: Improve health, gender equality and resilient livelihoods through sustainable and accountable WASH service delivery in Communities, Schools and Health Care Facilities (HCF) in Dowa District. 

 The Dowa-WASH project aims to improve health, gender equality and resilient livelihoods through sustainable and accountable WASH service delivery in Communities, Schools and Health Care Facilities (HCF) in Dowa District. Thereby supporting Dowa District to achieve SDG 6: ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.  

  • 69,719 households

Beyond Boreholes: Strengthening WASH systems for sustainable and inclusive WASH services


Objective: Improved health, gender equality through sustainable and accountable Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) service delivery in Communities, in Thyolo District working with co-op producer groups.  

 The project provides direct interventions on water supply infrastructure, training and behaviour change in communities addition to having a wider (indirect) impact on improving WASH service levels across all communities in the district, by influencing 
and strengthening the capacity of government and other WASH stakeholders to plan, manage, implement and sustain effective WASH services in line with district WASH and/or National WASH guidelines and priorities. Activities include building or rehabilitating boreholes and behaviour change sessions to reduce instances of open defecation. 

  • 183,933 people 

Increasing Access to Covid-19 Vaccines through Local Implementation (VAN)


Objective: VAN works with local implementation partners to deploy an action project to boost the vaccine uptake in the selected district(s): COVID-19 vaccine demand related; focused on priority groups (e.g., youths, elderly, CHWs etc.) leading to increased uptake as well as strengthened overall immunization systems 

 The Action took a health system strengthening and integrated social mobilisation approach and aimed to support the roll-out of the COVID-19 national vaccination campaign in Malawi and strengthen the health system's resilience to epidemic outbreaks intervening at both national and district level. To do so, UP/SHA and its consortium partners built the capacities of national and subnational healthcare authorities and healthcare workers. This contributed to strengthening the health system and its resilience, scaled-up existing Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE) and COVID-19 (C-19) vaccine sensitization efforts at national, district and community levels in order to counteract mistrust and disinformation campaigns. It also increased communities' awareness of the national campaign and trust towards vaccination as well as understanding its importance, provided technical support to district health offices for improved C-19 Vaccination planning, and implementation, including development of Vaccine communication and engagement plans, priority groups mapping and pre-registration, and Coordination. It further ensured quality and timely monitoring to prevent possible collateral 
damage due to the campaigns (which included prompt monitoring and reporting of any adverse events following immunisation - AEFI). The combined result of these activities led to improved effectiveness and efficiency of the National C-19 deployment plan. In Dedza district, all targeted health facilities were able to utilise vaccine doses before expiry dates, unlike for many districts in the country. 

Emergency WASH Response and resilience building to Cholera affected districts

Rumphi, Nkhatabay, Mzimba, Nsanje and Chikwawa  

Objective: Households and communities are enabled to prepare for and are resilient to climate change and economic shocks, and are supported to overcome chronic vulnerabilities that affect children 

 As of 12th March 2023, cumulatively 53,226 cholera cases have been registered, with 1,634 deaths with cumulative case fatality rate at 3.07%. The top 3 reported risk factors contributing to the occurrence of new cholera cases are unsafe water source, low latrine usageopen defecation, poor food hygiene and contact with cholera cases (Source: MoH). This being the case WASH is planning to extend partnership with Self Help Africa/United Purpose to conduct preventive community WASH interventions based on the community gaps to existing 5 districts and expanding to 4 new districts of Dowa, Ntchisi, Mchiji and Zomba. The partnership will focus on rehabilitation of non functional latrines, water treatment, hygiene talks as well as promiting construction of sanitation facilities in households and emergency pit latrines in camps or Cholera Treatment Camps (CTCs). 

The implementing partner SHA/UP will work with district councils and other community structures in the response especially on community activities and improve district cluster coordination; while UNICEF will provide technical and financial support. SHA/UP will also use this opportunity to achieve connectedness between humanitarian response and on going developmental efforts in Dowa and Zomba to strengthen systems of sustainability and foundation beyond emergency response.  

  • 150,000 people of which 102,000 are children, (78,000 women and girls, 72,000 men and boys) 

Cyclone Freddy Appeal


To reduce excess mortality and morbidity associated with floods by a strategic and timely humanitarian response  

 Tropical Cyclone Freddy hit the southern region of Malawi on the 12th of March 2023. The Government of Malawi declared a state of national disaster as the cyclone triggered heavy rainfall and strong winds which caused flooding and mudslides leading to loss of lives, serious injuries, displacement, and extensive damage to infrastructure in 10 districts. The southern districts of Blantyre, Chikwawa, Chiradzulu, Mulanje, Mwanza, Neno, Nsanje, Thyolo, Phalombe and Zomba have been the most affected. 
This emergency response aims to provide immediate lifesaving and life-sustaining assistance to the displaced and affected population due to floods through provision of emergency safe water, sanitation and promotion of good hygiene practices in camps and affected communities in the target TA’s in collaboration with government and other WASH partners in Thyolo district. It will also work to prevent and control the cholera outbreak in flood affected areas in the target TAs.  
SHA/UP began responding in March 2023 with support from UNICEF providing 
water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services in five Internally Displaced Person (IDP) camps in Blantyre. Our support included distribution of soap, buckets, chlorine, tarpaulin, installation of latrines and water quality testing.   

  • 10,000 households


PO BOX B-495
Tel. +265 1750568
Email: [email protected]