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Malawi, Africa

Mothers learn and earn

Cookstove training reduces risk of child labor

ARISE Women’s Agribusiness Groups (WAGs) comprise mothers with children at high risk of engaging in child labor. The women receive training and capital investments for savings groups to develop their own businesses. Families can then afford to purchase school uniforms and reduce their children’s vulnerability to labor.

In July 2016, ARISE trained 31 Women’s Agribusiness Group (WAG) members in the village of Chituku, Ntcheu District, Malawi. They were taught how to produce and market fuel-efficient cookstoves known locally as chitetezo mbaula. The cookstoves are a portable, clay, wood-burning stove, and are very popular in Malawi. They retail for between $1 to $2 US dollars each and last approximately two years. Designed to significantly reduce smoke, they also reduce household air pollution and related health issues. They save around 40% firewood compared to an open fire, and thereby reduce the time women and children, particularly girls, spend collecting firewood. The time the children save can be spent attending school instead. The cookstoves also reduce the risk of deforestation, a known cause of devastating floods, soil erosion and food insecurity in Malawi. By January 2017 no less than 1213 cookstoves had been sold by the group, earning it MWK 984,000 (USD $1329).

Robert Chinjala, 11, is a fourth-grade student at Kampanje Primary School. Prior to ARISE, Robert’s school attendance was erratic – he lacked a school uniform and other school necessities, and was identified by ARISE as being highly vulnerable to child labor. His mother was selected to participate in one of the WAGs and the income she subsequently earned was used to procure school uniforms and other learning materials for Robert. At an event organized by community members to distribute school uniforms and learning materials to ARISE child beneficiaries, Robert said, “My mother used to bake doughnuts to sell at the village market, however she didn’t make enough money to buy things like a uniform and writing materials. When she and her friends started to make and sell cookstoves, they bought school uniforms and writing materials for us. We also started having good breakfast before going to school.”

Fanny Mpulula, Secretary for one of the WAGs, considers the cookstove business to be extremely viable. “The business is doing well because we are the only cookstove producers in our area. We look forward to selling them to other villages. This business is easy for us because we make the cookstoves using clay that is locally available at no cost,” she explained.

ARISE also similarly trained selected WAG members in other villages in Ntcheu and Lilongwe. We facilitated the development of a child support plan to ensure that proceeds from the sales were used to support children’s education. The plan allocates 50% of the proceeds for the procurement of scholarship materials, 30% for group savings funds, and 20% for each of the group members.


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