As Tilitonse, a grant-making facility for Malawian-based CSOs jointly funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), Royal Norwegian Embassy and Irish Aid, launches a Thematic Call for Project Proposals on mining, other CSOs are scaling up activities to support communities that neighbour mining projects.
In April, Malawi’s Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) of the Karonga Catholic Diocese and the Church and Society Programme (CSP) of the Livingstonia Church of Central Africa Presbytarian Synod committed to running two projects amounting to over USD 60,000.
CSP will run the MWK 11 million (approximately USD 27,500) project “Advocacy Campaign for an Inclusive and Accountable Extractive Industry” to target mining activities at coal mines in Mchenga and Livingstonia. This has been inspired by a 2007 assessment which revealed a lack of tangible corporate social responsibility activities as well as poor compensation and low benefits for communities from mining activities, according to Deputy Director Jacob Nkhambule.
Protestants are not alone in running projects aimed to improve the benefits for mining communities. The CCJP’s MWK 14 million (approximately USD 35,000) “Mining Industry Advocacy Capacity Building Project” has similar aims for communities around Kaziwiziwi.
The Nation reported that Father Denis Chitete of the CCJP explained the rationale behind the project
We would like poor people at Kaziwiziwi to know their rights, demand them and defend them. There is also need to protect our natural resources and ensure that they benefit Malawians. Some of the resources are non-renewable and when they get exhausted without Malawians benefiting, then we defeat the whole purpose of owning the resources.
Sensitising traditional leaders is critical to improving the benefits for communities that neighbour mines. According to Traditional Authority Mwalweni from Rumphi, a district in Malawi’s northern region, “Mining companies exploit local people because traditional leaders are ignorant of what their roles are supposed to be”. He has called on government to provide education and civil society is well-positioned to contribute to capacity building in this area.
These remarks complement Professor Peter Eigen’s recent challenge to Malawian CSOs and media. Eigen, Founder and current Chair of the Advisory Council of Transparency International, underlined the critical role civil society should play in scrutinising the revenues the government receives from the extractive industries and push the government to sign up to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. He stressed that
It is up to the civil society and the media in Malawi to mobilise themselves and oversee mining activities effectively because oftentimes governments have a simplistic approach to handling extractive companies. The media and civil society must not leave everything in the hands of government .They must make sure that mining companies and government must not violate their agreements and this can in the end ensure that anyone in the country has a fair share of your natural resources.