Tonse Tipindule Project empowers mining communities in Mwanza, Phalombe
By Evangelical Association of Malawi (EAM)
In the past, rural communities in the districts of Mwanza and Phalombe were in the dark about mining activities that are taking place in their areas as they could just see strangers flying survey planes or conducting drilling works on their land.
Now the eyes of these poor villagers are open thanks to the Tonse Tipindule Project, which the Evangelical Association of Malawi (EAM) is implementing with financial support from Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) and Tilitonse Fund.
We have established Community Action Groups, which besides advocating for transparency and accountability on mining projects, are able to engage the companies to push for community benefits through corporate social responsibility projects,
says Coordinator for the Tonse Tipindule Project at EAM, Golden Mbaula.
He says through the project, EAM has enlightened members of the community in the two districts on mineral occurrences in the districts as mapped out in the airborne geophysical survey, which the Malawi government conducted with funding from the World Bank and European Union.
The survey confirmed potential for discovery of uranium, niobium, tantalum and other minerals in the Thambani area in Mwanza.
The government awarded an exclusive prospecting licence for the area to Canada-listed UK firm Mkango Resources, which is conducting prospecting work through its subsidiary, Lancaster Exploration.
We have empowered the community to engage government and the company not only on CSR but also on how they can work together with the company to ensure that the environment is protected as exploration and mining activities take shape. This is because Thambani Forest which is included in the company’s prospecting licence supports the community in so many ways. Even water for the Thambani community does come from the forest,
He says before the EAM, NCA and Tilitonse Fund’s intervention, the issue of mineral deposits in Thambani was confusing to the community members because the government never conducted any awareness programmes in the area.
The government even failed to introduce the investor to the members of the community hence the people felt their rights to know what is going on in their area was being violated. Now through the Community Action Groups (CAG), the people are now empowered to demand information on the exploration project from government,
Mbaula, however, expresses concern over lack of information on mining issues at district level saying in the case of Mwanza even the District Commissioner does not have the required information because there is lack of communication between his office and the Department of Mines.
Our experience in Thambani shows that it is necessary for Malawi to have mining officers at district level to facilitate free flow of information on mining issues to the community,
EAM is also working in Phalombe where the community has managed to engage the investor, Mkango Resources, which is prospecting for rare earth elements at Songwe Hill in the area to undertake corporate social responsibility projects.
Though the project is still in exploration phase, Mkango has been implementing a number of CSR projects proposed by the community in different sectors including agriculture, education, culture, and transport and infrastructure development.
In the area of education, Mkango Resources is pursuing a programme involving the improvement of infrastructure and provision of learning materials to primary schools in the Songwe area.
The programme saw the company partnering a non-governmental organization, boNGO World-wide, in a Happy Classrooms project that renovated and painted six classrooms for primary schools in the area with artistic expressions depicting what is in the school curriculum in so doing developing the classrooms into learner-friendly facilities.
In the agricultural sector, the company’s interventions are also visible. With the guidance of the National Small Holder Farmers Association of Malawi (NASFAM), Mkango donates various kinds of seeds to the farming communities within the area it operates as one way of developing the impoverished farming communities.
Mkango also invested in the development of various social infrastructures in the Songwe Hill area which include access roads, bridges and boreholes.
In my area, there was community hostility towards mineral exploration at Songwe Hill due to communication shortfalls before Tilitonse came in through the civil society to empower us with knowledge and negotiating skills to engage the investor on corporate social responsibility issues.
Now after constructive dialogue with them, Mkango Resources has demonstrated the desire to partner us, the people in development,
says the area’s Village Headman Namalamba.
The piece “Tonse Tipindule Project empowers mining communities in Malawi’s Mwanza, Phalombe” featured above was initially published in Malawi’s Mining & Trade Review Issue Number 42 that is circulating this October 2016.
The full edition is available for download here. This monthly publication is edited by Marcel Chimwala.