Malawi -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1
The Housing Need
An example of a Habitat house in Malawi.
Grace and her children Matamando, 6 and Caleb, 1.
Malawi is a country of immense beauty, boasting the fabulous Rift Valley, flanked by mountains and with Lake Malawi extending for most of its eastern border. Yet in the midst of this beauty is extreme poverty - the country is also rated amongst one of the least developed countries in the world.
With approximately 90% of its population living in rural areas, the economy is predominately agricultural and is otherwise dependent on substantial international assistance. Three quarters of the population live on less than $2 USD a day.
Because of the widespread poverty, an estimated four out of five families are living in substandard homes, with little hope of ever being able to afford a decent house. A typical village hut is built of mud and daub with a dirt floor and thatched roof and requires frequent repair. The conditions put families at high risk of all kinds of diseases, with leaky roofs making the house damp and mud floors attracting insects such as intestinal parasites.
Habitat for Humanity Malawi (HFHM)
Habitat for Humanity Malawi (HFHM) opened its first affiliate (community-based office) in 1986, in the city of Lilongwe. Today it has 18 affiliates operating across the country, in both urban areas, such as Lilongwe, Blantyre and Mzuzu, and rural areas including Kavukura, Mpherembe, Embangweni and Bumbunyika.
HFHM houses are made of kiln-fired clay bricks, with glass windows, air vents for good ventilation and a cement tile roof. Each house has a foundation made from large stones, brick or cement.
Through the provision of improved housing to families HFHM has remarkably enhanced the lives of people and have markedly reduced the occurrence of malaria, respiratory illness, and intestinal parasite problems usually found in children under five.
Since its beginning in the late 1986 to around 2001, new house construction had been the only approach. HFH Malawi builds 5 x 6 m (15 x 18 ft) houses in rural areas and 6.1 x 7 m (18.3 x 21 ft) houses in the urban affiliates. Each house includes a pit latrine to improve sanitation. The houses are intended to be affordable to the poor, but sometimes the repayment amounts are beyond the reach of the very poor. It became clear over the years that other approaches were also needed. This is the model implemented in urban affiliates i.e. South Lunzu, Lilongwe and Mzuzu.
Building in Stages (BIS)
This incremental building program allows low-income families to improve their living conditions gradually over time, based on their current availability of resources. The HFHM Building in Stages project, as it is now called, starts with a one room house that is less than half of the cost of the existing HFHM house cost. The house can be fully paid for in 3-5 years or less. After the first stage is paid-off, families can add another room to extend the house. When the extension is paid-off, the family can extend again, finally completing a house that is slightly larger than the previous designs. This incremental building keeps payments and repayment periods down, while also giving incentive to pay off in order to move to the next stage of building. It also means that Habitat can help more families in a shorter period of time, because the capital needed to start each house is less.
Home Improvement Loans (HIL)
In the effort to meet more families in need of decent housing, HFH Malawi also launched the Home Improvement Loan (HIL) project in 2002. HIL allows families living in thatch houses to receive small loans for a durable roof, a floor, a latrine, doors and windows or even plastic sheeting and termite treatment to improve thatched roofs. As one loan is paid off, the families may select another home improvement and receive another loan. The model introduces shorter loan periods. The objective of the Home Improvement Loan is to assist families who live in poverty houses to improve their living conditions for better health in a way that they can afford and will not be a burden to them.
Real Life Story
Grace Kaunda, 28, has lived in the Habitat for Humanity Area 49 Low Cost Housing Project in Lilongwe since 2007. She lives with her husband Mambo and her two children. Her brother and cousin live in the kitchen that they have added to their property. The Kaunda family originally lived in a 1 room, mud brick house in the slum area of Ntandile before moving to Area 49. Grace says that her life and the life of her family has changed exponentially for the better since moving to Area 49.
Grace says her family was interested in moving into Habitat housing so that they could own their own home. Grace runs a grocery store, which she built on her property and her husband works as a social worker. These opportunities were not open to either of them when they lived in Ntandile. Grace likes her new home because she has her own garden, kitchen, fence, and a nice toilet, which is just for her family. In Ntandile, her family shared one toilet and any outdoor space with four other families in a compound
She says her family feels very safe and happy here. Improvements to the Kaunda family’s life since moving to Area 49 include improved health, less incidences of malaria, a safer community, better access to schools and more room for her children to play. The greatest advantage of living here according to Grace is the incredible sense of security that comes from the prospect of home ownership. Grace’s dream is to see her children go to college and get good jobs.
Location: Southern Africa
Population: 13.5 million
Economy: Industries include tea, tobacco, sugar production, sawmill products, cement, consumer goods
Religions: Christianity, Islam
Languages: English, Chichewa, Tumbuka, Ngoni, Yao, Lomwe, Sena