Back in 2012, a Physics student from the University of Manchester – Jamie Proctor – went to Malawi with the vision of starting a project…
An organisation introduced Jamie to the Mlambe School in the small village of Chikolongo. The school was made up of an amazing community of welcoming children and teachers. However, the school itself was not in the best state. With just one government school block and most lessons being taught outside under trees, it was clear that The Mlambe School could be a perfect place to start an innovative educational project. There was full support from the community; and so The Mlambe Project was born.
On return to the UK, Jamie worked with a small budget hoping to find a cost-efficient and more sustainable method of building than the traditional brick method. That’s when Jamie Proctor happened upon Earthbag building. The technique had been used widely across the world, but not yet utilised in Malawi.
A year later, the first Earthbag building was constructed at The Mlambe School by a team from Chikolongo and volunteers from the UK. The Mlambe Project has now grown immensely, transforming into a charity that continually provides support to the community and the school, as well as promoting the highly effective method of Earthbag building across Malawi.
The first earthbag building in Malawi
Earthbag construction is an inexpensive building method using mostly local soil to create structures which are both strong and can be quickly built.
The Mlambe Project is responsible for creating the first earthbag in Malawi.
The Mlambe Project only became what it is today because of the relationship that was made with Chikolongo village, the home of Mlambe School. By fostering this relationship with the local community members, leaders and committees we were able to ensure that every building that was made or new idea that was explored started with what the community wanted or expressed as a need.
This approach is essential in order to ensure that we are maximizing our impact within the communities that we work, but also to ensure that we are being respectful of local customs as in Malawi it is crucial to work alongside local leadership such as chiefs and the involvement of chiefs is required in order to ensure community participation and ownership of any buildings.
By building this relationship with Chikolongo village we were able to identify 2 outstandingly committed, welcoming and hard working individuals – Steven Kambalame and Geoffrey Namagowa – who have been paramount to the success of the Mlambe Project today and are still the key figures on the ground in Malawi.The Mlambe Project learnt so much from Chikolongo and it will forever be the heart of the organisation. As we have now started to move into new communities, such as Boxi village where Nankhono school is located, we have made sure that we have replicated the same approach.
In order to do this we spent time getting to know the local leaders, school head teacher and committee members and made sure to have a commitment that the community would help where possibly on building projects. Moving forward, we will strive to build this same relationship wherever we go as it is essential for the success and sustainability of any project.
For all of our building, we have an amazing team from Chikolongo which is led by Malawians whom we have trained from scratch and with each new build, we train new communities in our building techniques which include earthbag and now interlocking earth bricks (SSB’s) which are ecologically friendly and fairly economical.
Our work has a triple win:
- Children are moved into classrooms from learning in the outdoors.
- Communities become proficient builders and learn techniques that help them attend to building their own homes and other community assets.
- Materials are sourced sustainably mitigating the environmental impact of building.
Since our first inception, we have also gone on to support the building of other community assets, such as toilets, bore holes and installing solar.
We have also gone on to support students to access higher education in remote communities through a partnership with the University of the People.
We also now run a permaculture project that supports pupils to learn how to integrate permaculture into farming, and bring in the community to learn more about permaculture.
We are a small, progressive and mobile charity, dedicated to supporting communities in ways in which we can have a net positive impact, and have a team of researchers and innovation impact researchers who constantly stress test our projects and programmes, and evaluate and iterate learning from our projects.
Support our work
Becoming a donor of The Mlambe Project helps you maximise impact of your donations on the lives of the people we help in Malawi. Thank you, your donation means the world to us