Most people in the Global North (Europe, UK, USA, etc.) think of charity as giving stuff to people – food, handouts, money. But there is a growing number of small, forward-thinking NGOs who instead work with communities and invest in the tools, skill-building and resources to help them to become sustainably self-sufficient.
A great example is a recent project funded by UK-based Kitchen Table Charities Trust (KTCT) in Malawi. Created by broadcaster and author John Humphrys in 2005, and managed by retired British diplomat Brian Donaldson, KTCT awards small grants of up to £6,000 to local organisations capable of achieving sustainable results.
The initial grant for the Malawi project was £2,200 for a Malawian NGO to implement a five year plan to support young people in ten villages in Northern Malawi in developing a profitable and sustainable agricultural business which would provide them with employment and a regular income.
In years one to three the plan included growing cash crops of maize on three acres of land, tomatoes on two acres, establish a piggery, build a central store for fertiliser, tools, seeds, and chemicals etc., and to store crops prior to sale. In years four and five the plan includes the establishment of a tomato processing plant to make tomato paste and ketchup.
Implementing the plan involved establishing groups of 10-20 unemployed recent school leavers supplied with everything needed to start building small agricultural businesses. In each village the charity has set up a Committee of 15 to 25 year olds and older, single women who are sole bread winners. They are trained in modern farming methods and taught about the business side of farming. They also established a mini farm at a school to teach children basic gardening and farming skills – to provide much needed food for school meals, and help the children to find employment more easily when they leave school.
KTCT added a further investment of £6,000 to extend the project to five more villages. Covid has delayed progress, but the local organisation expects to have sustainable farm production in all ten villages by the end of 2023.