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Virtual Tour: Malawi


In March 2023, countries in southeastern Africa were hit by one of the most powerful cyclones in memory. Tropical Cyclone Freddy moved across Madagascar, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Malawi, bringing torrential rain and powerful winds. Freddy was one of the longest-lasting tropical cyclones and most intense cyclones on record, generating accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) that the World Meteorological Organization has said was equivalent to a full North Atlantic hurricane season.

Church building damaged by cyclone

A church building damaged by Cyclone Freddy

The storm created new challenges and worsened existing challenges in the country of Malawi, where over 70 percent of the population lives below the international poverty line of $1.90 per day.

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to join colleagues from the ELCA in visiting the Blantyre region in southern Malawi to learn more about the impact of the cyclone and to hear about the ways the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malawi (ELCM) and its development arm, the Evangelical Lutheran Development Service (ELDS), are accompanying communities impacted by hunger, poverty and disaster, with support from ELCA World Hunger and Lutheran Disaster Response.

The stories we heard of the cyclone were devastating. The people who spoke with us told of homes destroyed by winds and rock slides, livestock and fields of crops washed away, and family members lost in the floodwaters. The pain was palpable as they shared their stories and showed us piles of bricks that used to be their homes. Many of the people we met spoke of trauma and a need for both material goods, such as food and clothing, and spiritual and emotional care as they discern a path forward.

Yet, we also heard a bold commitment to continue moving forward, to replant and to rebuild, and to continue making progress against hunger and poverty. “We cannot remain idle,” one woman said. A man from a community near Chimvu echoed her: “We have to keep going.”

men standing in front of bags of meal

Presiding Bishop Joseph Bvumbwe of the ELCM and Rev. Philip Knutson, ELCA regional representative for Southern Africa, stand in front of bags of dry food that will be distributed to communities in need

ELCM and ELDS are accompanying the communities as they forge a new path ahead. With support from Lutheran Disaster Response, ELCM and ELDS are distributing food in areas hit by Tropical Cyclone Freddy. The bags of meal and soya will not meet every need, but they will provide critical food for the hardest-hit communities. And, as we heard, the food is an important symbol of the ongoing presence of ELCM and ELDS within the communities. It is a sign that they are not alone.

Despite the challenges of recovery, the communities accompanied by ELDS and ELCM are also continuing the important long-term work of reducing food insecurity and poverty. With support from ELCA World Hunger, ELDS is working with communities to expand food production, support small businesses and strive for gender justice. Our group had the chance to visit newly planted fields of sweet potatoes and cassava, to learn about women-owned businesses and even to meet some young piglets.

There is much need in the communities we visited, but there are also so many assets and strengths to witness. The leaders in each community inspired us with their hope, determination, creativity and resilience that make it possible for this work to continue.

Below, you have the chance to virtually witness some of this for yourself through a virtual tour of the communities in Zomba and Phalombe. In this virtual tour, you will be able to meet some of the people we visited, to watch as one leader describes her fuel-efficient wood-burning cookstove, to hear the exuberant singing and dancing of the communities and to learn more about how ELCA World Hunger, Lutheran Disaster Response, ELCM and ELDS are partnering together to accompany our neighbors in Malawi.

The virtual tour is accessible on computer or mobile device. Each text box also has an icon for a screen reader. Click on the picture or link below to get started.  Once the tour opens, scroll down just a bit to find a button allowing you to view it full-screen. To navigate, simply click any of the pulsing icons on the pictures. Each icon will pull up a video, picture or text box. You can use the back arrow and the home icon at the top left of the screen to go back or to re-start.

May the people and the stories you encounter in the tour inspire your ongoing prayers for continued recovery from Tropical Cyclone Freddy and inspire your hope and active support through the strength and courage of our neighbors in Malawi.

Hunger and Hope in Malawi: Virtual Tour

Ryan P. Cumming, Ph.D., is the director of education and networks for the Building Resilient Communities team in the ELCA.

Advent Study Series, Session 1: Just Food


Session 1

Alppha Banda, Irene Banda, Kristina Stephano, Dorothy Ngamira and Martha Kamphata all have children attending the Chibothel Lutheran Nursery School, operated by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malawi. This school has 42 students and, with support from ELCA World Hunger, is the base for a feeding center for children.

Every school day, Alppha, Kristina, Dorothy, Irene and Martha show up as volunteers to cook for nearly 70 children aged 6 months to 5 years who travel to Chibothel from the surrounding 10 villages. Pooling resources, the women prepare food that has been donated, cup by cup, from the families of the children.

Whether it’s daily meals of sustenance or occasional feasts of celebration, there is something special, something intrinsically communal about preparing a meal. In the 1987 film “Babette’s Feast,” the title character is a French refugee as a live-in maid and cook for two sisters. Dutifully, she prepares their austere, simple meals day-in and day-out, until one day, Babette learns she has won a lottery, making her a wealthy woman. In celebration of her newfound fortune and in thanks to her two hostesses, she prepares an elaborate meal featuring the complex and sophisticated dishes of her native French cuisine. The meal itself is almost comical, as the modest diners nervously try turtle soup, quail and caviar.

The meal is the climax of the film, but the story is as much about the preparation as the eating. Gathering the ingredients requires substantial planning and expense, including arranging for shipments of meats and cheeses from Paris. Babette has labored in the sisters’ kitchen for months, but the work she puts into preparing the feast is different. It is a performance of art, a labor of love and a pouring out of herself. Each dish reflects an aspect of the life she left behind and an element of her history that she will share with the dinner guests.

To prepare a meal is to conjure elements of our own selves and our history of family recipes and cultural tastes and to share these in the creation of something new — a new table, a new experience for guests. It is to invite them into our past, to experience our memories of family dinners from years gone by, and into our present, to see part of who we are. Sharing a meal is sharing a piece of our stories as a gift to others.

For the fictional character Babette, the meal is an invitation into her past and an expression of love and welcome to the other characters in the film. For the women of Chibothel Lutheran Nursery School, the pooling of ingredients from across the community and the careful preparation of the students’ repast is a witness to the love for and support of the students. As Dorothy describes it, “Each and every child here is everyone’s child through the bond of love.”

For many of us, Babette’s feast is a luxury we cannot afford. Juggling unpredictable work schedules and limited finances often means family dinners are more functional than formal. Without access to the food we want, we must use what we have — or what we are given. Meals eaten in the many households facing food insecurity may  meet caloric needs, but they often leave other needs unfulfilled — the need for self-expression through cooking, the need to share and to share in our own history, and the need to pass on our traditions.

The privilege of making meaningful choices about our food is one way hunger affects more than just nutrition. Without adequate access to food, we lose a key avenue for sharing part of our history and our story. On the other hand, by supporting ministries to end hunger with an eye toward the importance of food as a symbol of our history and community, we can create opportunities for real feasting.

The women at Chibothel Lutheran Nursery School know this. Their morning routine meets the nutritional needs of the children, but as anthropologist Pat Caplan points out, “food is never ‘just food.'” The meals at the nursery school are a symbol of the care, love and concern of the community for its youngest members. The promise of God for the day when we will all feast together at the banquet is more than a promise of adequate nutrition. It is a promise of a time when God will reconcile our stories, our histories and our communities together.

As we anticipate the coming of the Christ-child this season, with all the opportunities it carries for preparing food together, we look forward to this day, preparing family recipes, mixing familiar ingredients, and plating dishes for a meal whose “significance can never just be nutritional.”

Questions for reflection:

  • What types of food or meals bring up special memories for you? How do they reflect part of your “story”?
  • What other needs — besides nutrition — can meals shared with others help fulfill?
  • How can ministries responding to hunger address needs beyond physical hunger?


Gracious God,

in your loving care, you bring forth good things from the earth to sustain and nourish your people. We give you thanks for these gifts and for the community that you gather to feast together this season. Open our hearts to our neighbors facing hunger that we may with love remember both those at the table and those absent from it. Preserve us and accompany us this Advent season as we await with eager anticipation the salvation of the world.

In your name,



To download this entire study, or to see some of our other congregational resources, please visit


Gifts to ELCA World Hunger are acts of love towards our neighbors living with hunger and poverty both here and around the world. Together, we are creatively and courageously working toward a just world where all are fed.

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World Malaria Day 2018 – Updates from the Field


From 2011 to 2015, the ELCA Malaria Campaign raised both awareness about malaria and gifts to support companion churches and partners in fourteen countries to combat this disease. These gifts continue to support projects in countries faced with the daunting challenges posed by malaria. This World Malaria Day, we celebrate this important work that continues through the ELCA’s companion churches. As we commemorate World Malaria Day this year, we do so with firm resolve to keep up this important work. According to the World Health Organization, there were 216 million estimated cases of malaria in 2016 (the most recent year data is available.) This is a significant decrease from the 237 million cases WHO estimated for 2010, which enlivens hope that we can reduce vulnerability to this disease. Yet, we also know that progress has slowed. The 2016 estimates represent an increase from 2015, when WHO reported 211 million cases.

 Clearly, there is more to be done. But ELCA World Hunger, our partners, and our companions also celebrate the progress that has been made and the impact this work has had in communities. Below are updates from some of the countries where malaria work continues. For more on the malaria programs in Zimbabwe from ELCA staffmember David Mills, see this post.


Income generation and savings is a key part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malawi’s work, as well. In 2017, their village savings and loan programs reached more than 2,100 members, who collectively saved nearly $167,000 dollars. These savings have helped the participants—88 percent of whom are women—gain increased access to health services, loans, and education while improving the overall food security of their households. The members were also able to make improvements to their homes and purchase assets that will help them generate income. All of these results will help them be more resilient to malaria outbreaks.


Community members clear tall grass at Engela Hospital.

To reduce the population of mosquitos that carry the malaria parasite, removing brush and tall grasses that would allow standing water to collect near homes is critical. In Ruacana, 349 people from seven villages came together with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia (ELCIN) to implement a major cleaning campaign to reduce the risk of malaria. The Regional Councillors’ office helped by providing transportation for the large group. More than 100 participants joined in two other cleaning campaigns in Okongo and Engela districts, especially targeting the area around the hospitals in those communities.

Education about spraying continues to be a key priority for the ELCIN. When participants in their malaria program in Zambezi reported that many people refused to allow sprayer operators into their homes, the church began an intensive awareness campaign and hosted workshops with community leaders. With the knowledge they gained and the trust that was built in the workshops, the community leaders became active advocates for indoor spraying, assisting the program leads and offering support to sprayer operators. The ELCIN now reports that 89% of the homes in Zambezi have participated in indoor spraying, a key best practice in reducing the risk of malaria.


Malaria is a disease of poverty. On the one hand, the disease itself contributes to high rates of poverty because of lost productivity, lost wages due to illness or death, lower school attendance, and increased health care costs. On the other hand, poverty can also make a community more vulnerable to malaria by decreasing the availability of social services, including health care and prevention education.

This is why income-generating activities are a key part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe’s (ELCZ) response to malaria. In Hwange and Gokwe districts, community members took time to celebrate the hard work of people involved in the ELCZ’s livelihoods projects. In Gokwe, groups participated in field days at a local level, showcasing a variety of products, including organic honey, organic milled small grains, protein-rich nuts, sun-dried vegetables, and soups. Some of the products were collected and exhibited at a district-wide field day. The exhibit of products won an award for best exhibit in the social services category. More than just celebrating the work of the groups, the exhibits gave them an important opportunity for feedback on product quality and branding.

In Hwange, the ELCZ held a field day where groups could come together and share experiences and best practices. Groups also had the chance to showcase the products they had developed. The group members helped make the field day a successful celebration, mobilizing resources for food and prizes for the presenters.

The ELCZ’s work has made a tremendous impact on individuals and communities. Gogo Lucy Mloyi, a 60-year-old widow in Mfelandawonye, has been a member of a village savings and loan group since 2013. The group has been a blessing for Gogo Mloyi as she works to raise chickens for eggs and meat. Through her hard work and the support she has, Gogo Mloyi was able to build a six-room house, with rooms to rent for added income. She was also able to get electricity in her house to run a deep freezer where she keeps her chickens before they are sold. With the support from the village savings and loan group, Gogo Mloyi is able to meet her needs in her new home.

Gogo Lucy Mloyi

Field Report: Literacy in Malawi


Last week, ELCA World Hunger and ELCA Global Mission staff visited with companions in Malawi, learning more about the great work local volunteers and leaders are doing with support from ELCA World Hunger. Below, David Mills, the program director for budget and operations on the Diakonia team in the ELCA’s Global Mission unit, shares one of the stories he has heard during the visit. For a previous field report on Malawi from David, click here.


Siteliya Lakisoni knows her name.

Siteliya is a mother of six children, including her daughter, Patilisha, whom she adopted after Patilisha became an orphan. For two years, Siteliya has been attending Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malawi (ELCM) adult literacy classes offered in Salima, Malawi.

She told me, “Before I started attending class, I could not read or write. I knew nothing.”

Today, she wrote her name on the board, her hand moving with confidence and pride. When I asked her how gaining the ability to read and write had changed her life, she said,

“I used to receive letters and notifications about community services being offered, and I could not read them without help. Now I can read them, I can interpret them for my community.”

Patilisha was standing by her side as Siteliya and I conversed. She was composed and steady, sharpness of mind evident before she even spoke. I asked her what it meant to her that her mother could read and write now, and she told me plainly and confidently,

“When I see my mom read and write, I feel good. I want to learn from my mom. When I grow up, I want to be a teacher.”

When a woman gains knowledge, that knowledge washes like holy water over every layer of community, bringing nourishment and new life to the people and to the land. And a generation of young girls are inspired to follow the trail blazed for them, leaving that path wider and more trodden still for the ones who will come after.

When a woman knows her name, the world is never the same. Thanks be to God, Siteliya knows her name.

Learn more about how you can walk alongside the women like Siteliya who will forge Malawi’s future through ELCA World Hunger’s “40 Days of Giving.”

Field Report: Supporting Local Efforts in Malawi

This week, ELCA World Hunger and ELCA Global Mission staff are visiting with companions in Malawi, learning more about the great work local volunteers and leaders are doing with support from ELCA World Hunger. Below, David Mills, the program director for budget and operations on the Diakonia team in the ELCA’s Global Mission unit, shares one of the stories he has heard during the visit.

Alppha Banda, Kristina Stephano, Dorothy Ngamira, Irene Banda, and Martha Kamphata all have children attending the Chibothel Lutheran Nursery School, operated by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malawi. This school, with an enrollment of 42 students, serves as the base for a feeding center for children supported by ELCA World Hunger.

Every school day, Alppha, Kristina, Dorothy, Irene and Martha show up as volunteers to cook for nearly 70 children aged six months to five years who travel to Chibothel from the surrounding ten villages. Pooling resources, they prepare food that has been donated, cup by cup, from the families of the children.

And because of ELCA World Hunger, food is provided not only when families have enough to contribute, but year-round, even during the months of October to January when food is most scarce in the region.

When we asked Dorothy what inspires the group to devote themselves in service to these children, she said, “Each and every child here is everyone’s child through the bond of love.”

When you support ELCA World Hunger, your support does not stand alone. It buttresses the sacrificial efforts of women like Alppha, Kristina, Dorothy, Irene, and Martha (and their fellow community members) who work relentlessly to ensure that every child in their community has opportunity.

The support we offer together through ELCA World Hunger isn’t about instilling determination, nor compensating for a lack of ingenuity or motivation among our neighbors. Rather, it is a reflection of the ELCA’s commitment to walk alongside communities in Malawi and around the world through our companion church partners, knowing that we will go further together, and that we can only be transformed in relationship with one another.

You can learn more about how to support ELCA World Hunger projects supporting health and wellness in Malawi through ELCA World Hunger’s “40 Days of Giving” by visiting the site here:

As we journey toward Easter, ELCA World Hunger’s “40 Days of Giving” is an important opportunity to remember that we do not journey alone.

World Malaria Day 2017: Updates from the Field


As we celebrate World Malaria Day, I cannot forget the words of Ryunosuke Satoro who said, “Individually we are one drop. Together we are an ocean” Together we can end malaria for good.

-Yeukai Muzezewa (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe, Malaria Project coordinator)


From 2011 to 2015, the ELCA Malaria Campaign raised both awareness about malaria and gifts to support companion churches and partners in fourteen countries to combat this disease. These gifts continue to support projects in countries faced with the daunting challenges posed by malaria. This World Malaria Day, we celebrate this important work that continues through the ELCA’s companion churches. We especially give thanks for Shoni Ngobeni, the Malaria Coordinator for the Lutheran Communion in Southern Africa (LUCSA), who compiled this post from reports from LUCSA member churches.


Since 2011, the ELCA has been accompanying six member churches of the Lutheran Communion in Southern Africa (LUCSA) as they respond to malaria in Angola, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Since 2011, there has been a remarkable decline in morbidity and mortality related to malaria, particularly in these six countries.

The churches of LUCSA have played a role in that decline, and the work supported by the ELCA Malaria Campaign continues.

Yet, malaria continues to affect household livelihoods and education, especially because working adults and schoolchildren affected by malaria are often absent from work or school. In Malawi, malaria is still one of the major causes of morbidity and mortality, especially in children under five years of age, pregnant women and people living with HIV. There are approximately six million suspected cases treated annually, and malaria is responsible for 40% of all the hospitalizations of children under five years old and 34% of all outpatient visits across all ages.

Much work remains, but the success of LUCSA’s malaria programs so far is encouraging.

Strategies employed to achieve the success thus far include:

  • Institutional Capacity Building
  • Malaria Prevention and Control
  • Malaria Case Management
  • Sustainable Livelihood

The committed staff at the LUCSA secretariat office and of the member churches worked hard to build the capacity of the churches, congregations and surrounding communities through basic malaria awareness and education. This has enabled participants to take charge of their own health by preventing themselves from contracting malaria. The gap in knowledge was addressed, myths about malaria were dispelled, attitudes and behavior were remarkably changed, and participants laid the foundation for sustainable livelihoods to protect against future risk. Below are reflections and updates from two LUCSA member churches – the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe (ELCZ) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malawi (ELCM).


Yeukai Muzezewa, ELCZ Malaria Program Coordinator:


The ELCZ cannot fold its hands and retreat from fighting malaria; I also cannot do that, when outbreaks are reported every rainy season, when children under five years are still suffering bouts of convulsions, when communities are not able to plow their fields because of sickness due to malaria. It is not over until we completely eradicate malaria. The ELCZ malaria project has declared war against the malaria-causing mosquito, and our weapons are mosquito nets, awareness-raising, indoor residual spraying and early treatment options.

For a number of years now, the project has been working with more than 45,000 households in two dioceses. The project has been divided into four strategic pillars: institutional capacity building, malaria prevention and control, treatment, and sustainable livelihoods.

The first strategic pillar is based on the realization that communities are able to solve their own problems. It, therefore, aims at working with church and community structures to build their capacity to prevent and control malaria as well as reduce its effects. The project works with schools, churches, community volunteers, community leaders, health facilities and other community organizations.

A vegetable garden initiated by Burure community to improve food security and household income.


A Village Health Worker demonstrating how to hang a net on a reed mat.


Mr and Mrs Tazviona from Gokwe joyfully receiving their share amount from their saving group.


Judith Jere, ELCM Malaria Coordinator:

With support from the ELCA, the ELCM Malaria Program contributed to the reduction of morbidity and mortality due to malaria, particularly among pregnant women and children under five years old, as well as among particularly vulnerable population groups. Congregations and surrounding communities are empowered to reduce the risk and vulnerability to malaria infection and to alleviate the impact of the disease on the affected households, with a strong focus on children under five years, pregnant women and disadvantaged people from the hard-to-reach areas, based on the four strategic pillars (see above.)

Major achievements from the program include:

  • Behavior change: Many achievements have been recorded from the community in terms of increased knowledge, changes in behavior, and an awareness of the myths and misconceptions about the diseases.
  • Net distribution: Use of nets for children has increased from 55.1% in 2011 to 88% in 2015, and from 33% in 2011 to 84% in 2014 for the general population.
  • Treatment support: The proportion of pregnant women who received two or more doses of intermittent preventive treatment has increased from 41% in 2011 to 73% in 2014, indicating that more pregnant women are protected from malaria during pregnancy.
  • Advocacy: When the program started, the government had not yet rolled out Rapid Diagnostic Tests (MRDTs) in the village clinics because Health Surveillance Assistants (HSAs), who are in charge of these clinics, had not yet been trained. Following a solidarity walk by the ELCM to advocate for training and use of MRDTs, it is pleasing to note that more than 80% of the HSAs are now able to diagnose malaria using the MRDT and are no longer treating malaria patients based solely on clinical symptoms. This was a great experience of effective advocacy creating meaningful change!




The introduction of the fourth strategy, the sustainable livelihood pillar of the malaria program, has brought a remarkable change to the income status and livelihood of the Lutheran congregants and surrounding communities. It improved the capacity of people in poverty to earn and save income.


Christina M’bwana, a participant in the Mwaiwathu Village Savings and Loan Association (Malawi), stands with her goats. “I am very happy that through my membership in the savings group, my family has attained our long-term goal,” she says. “These goats will help my family in very critical situations, such as hunger, illness and school fees for children.”


Conclusion: Shoni Ngobeni LUCSA Malaria Coordinator:

Looking back at where the journey started, LUCSA and the member churches really appreciate the financial support and the technical support offered by our faithful and committed partners at the ELCA. We would really appreciate more support in the form of funds and accompaniment as we harness the lessons learned and build our capacity to raise funds locally to continue with the journey towards the elimination of malaria. The Communion Office of LUCSA continues to facilitate the member churches to further invest in the strengthening of community support structures and organizations as part of the transition from the campaign phase.


ELCA World Hunger thanks Judith, Yeukai, and Shoni for sharing their hard work with us for this blog post. Photos are courtesy of ELCZ (credit: M. Ndlovu) and ELCM.


End Hunger? The Single Most Important Step

This blog originally appeared on the Huffington Post Impact site:

A few years ago, I was at the World Food Prize in Des Moines, Iowa, for the Borlaug Dialogues, an annual international conference on food security, agriculture, and food science. Representatives from NGOs, businesses, local communities, and national governments offered their solutions to hunger around the world, from encouraging young agri-entrepreneurs to shipping fish heads to Africa. There was no end to creative (and, at times, dubious) solutions to world hunger.

What is the right answer? Maybe, like many at the Borlaug Dialogues argued, the solution is to increase agricultural output, since we have too many people and not enough food. On the other hand, some argue that we already produce more than enough for everyone, so food waste is the real issue. Maybe the answer lies in the science of GMOs that can “save the world from hunger, if we let them.” Perhaps the solution is more straightforward—give hungry people peanut butter. Or, it could involve transforming economic opportunity through social enterprise, the “only” solution to global poverty according to the author of that article. And so on and so on.

About the only thing most folks seem to agree on is that the answer isn’t more relief but more development. Figuring out which path toward development to take, though, is another matter. Even the best routes aren’t perfect. Increasing agricultural output doesn’t address rampant food waste. Developing more GMO seeds doesn’t address lack of clean water or lack of jobs. Microlending can provide huge benefits, but it doesn’t work everywhere and doesn’t work everywhere in the same way.

But there is a single step we can take to end hunger for good around the world and in our own communities: listening to one another. Too often, the “solutions” to hunger and poverty come down from the “top,” rather than rising up from the ground. Those of us in developed countries are moved by the problems we see in developing nations and bring our own solutions to bear in communities that are not our own. At its worst, this feeds the sort of “savior complex” on prominent display recently in the controversy over Louise Linton’s new memoir. At its best, this top-down model proffers solutions that simply don’t work.

The kind of meaningful listening that builds relationships between and within communities helps solutions arise that are effective and sustainable. This model “challenges one-sided, top-down, and donor-recipient approaches…and emphasizes the need for developing mutual relationships in which all are considered teachers and learners,” says Rev. Dr. Philip Knutson, the regional representative of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) in Southern Africa. Knutson warns that without cultivating relationships through listening, development projects can lose sight of context and “may be short-sighted, benefiting some but excluding others.”


Fyness Phiri of Chithope Village

Fyness Phiri of Chithope Village

When listening is authentic, though, programs can respond to a host of needs, including practical needs for economic empowerment and personal needs like recognition of self-dignity. In Malawi, the Evangelical Lutheran Development Service (ELDS), supported in part by the ELCA through ELCA World Hunger, is working with women and men to build community and overcome the challenges of hunger and poverty. (ELDS is the diaconate arm of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malawi, led by Bishop Joseph Bvumbwe.) Fyness Phiri, one of the participants in the “Livelihoods Improvement and Empowerment Project,” recalls, “I was one of the poorest people in the village…before ELDS introduced this project.” Fyness used to ask her neighbors for money to buy food for herself, her husband, and their four children.


At a community meeting in 2013, Fyness joined other women to start a village savings and loan group. After some training and community-building meetings with ELDS, the group gave out its first loans. Fyness and the other women were able to start small businesses and purchase seeds and fertilizers for their farms. Eventually, the start-up money helped Fyness produce enough food to feed her family, pay back her loan, and sell some of her surplus at market. “Since I joined the project,” she says, “my life has completely changed. I have food in my house, and I’m able to send my children to school. Because of the knowledge [I’ve gained], I will be able to continue and help others even if the project phases out.” Because ELDS invested in the community and the relationships formed among the women, the impact is not only sustainable but replicable.

Extension worker Chesterman Kumwenda demonstrates how to use a treadle pump.

Extension worker Chesterman Kumwenda demonstrates how to use a treadle pump.

Microlending worked wonders for the women in Fyness’ village, but for Charles Chikwatu’s community, the problem was not access to funds but lack of water for their fields. Charles and other participants worked together to learn how to use efficient treadle pumps to increase the land they could tend for maize and tomatoes. The benefits of the new method are huge, Charles says: “I easily find money through sale of my crops [and] I have managed using the money from irrigation to send my children to secondary school. I have also started a grocery with the money from this farming.”

New irrigation systems wouldn’t help Fyness, who didn’t even have money for seeds. A village savings and loan wouldn’t have helped Charles’ community address lack of access to water. But by listening closely, ELDS helped Fyness, Charles, and their communities transform their own situations.

And because of this, the benefits extend far beyond the immediate needs for food, according to Knutson. “[C]ollaboration between individual members in a community has enabled the individuals and the community to gain in knowledge and confidence to leverage other benefits enabling them to start new business and advocate for government support for local clinics and other rural development projects,” he says.

New, creative solutions to hunger and poverty abound, and many offer much promise. When these are employed in the context of relationships where participants become leaders and vision is built from the ground up, effective action can take root and grow. Sometimes, the answer is reducing waste. In some places, the answer is increased production. With some groups, the answer is enterprise. But in every time, place, and case, the best response is to listen.

Photos: Gazeli Phiri and Dickens Mtonga, courtesy of ELDS

Ryan P. Cumming, Ph.D., is program director of hunger education with ELCA World Hunger.  He can be reached at



Not just nets…

In the global movement to fight malaria, we often hear the phrase “nothing but nets.” It’s catchy and alliterative and makes the containment of malaria sound oh-so simple; really it’s everything a catchphrase ought to be.

And mosquito nets, especially long-lasting insecticide-treated nets (LLINs), are truly wonderful instruments. They’re one concrete way to help households and communities prevent the bites from malaria-infected mosquitoes. Nets are cheap and effective, and through the efforts of many of our colleagues in global health ministries, they’re becoming widely available in Africa and in other areas where malaria impacts lives. Plus, they make great visual aids for a congregation that chooses to tackle the important task of raising awareness and funds to fight malaria.

But it would be a misnomer to apply the phrase “nothing but nets” to the work of the ELCA Malaria Campaign. Nets are definitely one part of the efforts our Lutheran companions are mounting to prevent and treat malaria in Africa, but they are just that– one part of the larger efforts. Our companions in Africa have created malaria containment programs that are creative, multi-faceted and sustainable, and respond to the specific needs and cultural dynamics  of their contexts. These programs take advantage of the most current medical and epidemiological insights about how to prevent and treat malaria, such as:

They also provide education to help individuals lower the impact of malaria in their lives. They teach:

Our companions have many creative plans to impart these lessons, from training an advocacy choir in Zimbabwe to sing about malaria prevention and treatment, to purchasing bicycles for members of village health teams in Malawi.

In this newspaper article, Bishop Bvumbwe of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Malawi weighs in about the ELCM’s approach to malaria work. He says what’s needed first in his context is education; nets come later.     And so the ELCA Malaria Campaign will be there, leveraging your donations to supply what’s needed most (nets and more!), accompanying our companions as together we equip households to keep themselves safe from malaria.

– Jessica Nipp, ELCA Malaria Campaign