The Mwandama cluster is located in the southern region of Malawi’s Zomba district. It lies 24km from the town of Zomba, and rises 900 – 1200m above sea level. Rainfall ranges from 700 to 1200 millimeters. Mwandama sits in the only region in the world that has seen both a rise in temperature and a drop in rainfall in recent years. These changes have led to common recurrent famines.
The region is characterized by the native vegetation of the Miombo woodlands. It is intensively cultivated both by smallholders growing maize, pigeon peas, cassava and groundnuts, and by the commercial estate owners growing tobacco and maize.
Large privately-owned tobacco plantations, which surround the seven villages, provide day labor for many people at wages of $0.50 per day, but they also impose significant repercussions on the development of surrounding communities. Plantation owners restrict the usage of roads to the villages, and the availability of work gives families an excuse to keep their children out of school. As a result, school attendance rates have historically been extremely low.
- Average maize yields increased more than fivefold, from 0.8 to 4.5 tons per hectare.
- The new grain bank won a contract to supply maize to WFP, earning its members $47,500 in 2010.
- A mobile bank serves the community, offering savings accounts and small loans.
- Household access to improved drinking water has more than doubled, with near universal coverage.
- Chronic malnutrition (stunting) among children under two was reduced by approximately one-third and universal coverage of measles immunization was achieved,
- 85% of pregnant women are now tested for HIV/AIDS, nearly a fourfold increase.
- Two mobile phone towers have been constructed that will increase coverage across Mwandama.