Manesi Samalani from Malawi, pictured.
The clue is in the name… as Malawi’s ASPIRE (Achieving Sustainable Poverty Reduction through Increased Inclusive Resilience and Empowerment) project has enabled hundreds of women in Malawi to make their small business aspirations come true.
Women like Manesi Samalani, who always wanted to put her handcraft skills to good use and produce clothing and footwear that might provide her with the foundations of a small business.
Trained and supported by ASPIRE – backed by Irish Aid – Manesi invested in the necessary equipment and materials, and started to manufacture shoes and clothing that she would sell to others.
“In the past we didn’t have a proper house where the family could sleep, and I often had to do manual work to generate an income and put food on the table,” she recalls. “Today, we are eating better. I now have seven goats, and I’m able to afford the school fees for my children.”
Grenina Mbati was also part of the ASPIRE, but in joining a community grain bank where she could bulk and sell produce, and could also access fertilisers to increase her farming yields.
In total, the project worked with more than 2,700 households in Malawi’s central region. It created community grain banks, local irrigation schemes and improved local access to seed, fertiliser and other inputs. ASPIRE also promoted enterprise development, and, according to project manager Blessings Kapombo, increased the numbers with a year-round supply of food from 44% up to 61%.
ASPIRE also gave communities a voice. It improved links between local communities and government-run services. As a result, village councils were able to lobby for improvements to water, roads, and other local services.
An extension to ASPIRE launched in 2022. It’s aim is to support 35,000 households, including five farming cooperatives and 20 productive groups, with 5,000 members in the Dedza District of Malawi’s Central Region.