Children in the Wilderness Malawi – 2023/24 Programme Launch

This September we celebrate the start of the 2023-24 Eco-Club year, along with the new school year. 150 new Eco-Club members have been registered in 15 primary schools, making a total of 675 Eco-Club members, as well as 230 YES (Youth Environmental Stewardship) Club members.

Our celebratory story, which we would like to share with our family, supporters and would-be supporters, follows below.

The future belongs to our children

Children form the perfect bridge between today and tomorrow, shifting from the current leadership to the next generation’s leadership. The current leadership plays an important role in orienting the children towards their own future. Our CITW Malawi programme continues to discover that by giving children space to be heard, and creating deliberate opportunities for their contributions, a better future is achievable – and highly deserved. Our goal is to ensure that the children get their share of this desired future.

How do we make this happen?

Working with local primary school education authorities, we organise and give the children specific practical and theory lessons on the environment, wildlife, conservation and leadership. With their better understanding of these subjects, they develop a positive attitude which encourages their passion and sense of responsibility. This results in their taking an active role in facilitating the desired sustainable conservation of the environment and wildlife.  

Chifundo Nyambalo (above), joined the CITW Eco-Club programme when he was 12 years old, and has been with CITW for over 13 years. If not for his joining an Eco-Club, he would likely have become a poacher in and around Liwonde National Park – according to his own testimony. Currently, he is a qualified Field Safari Guide who is also involved with educational camps. Chifundo is now one of our CITW educators.

We train the children to be teachers and in turn, trainers of their siblings and their peers. We teach the generation of today so that they can live to teach tomorrow’s generation.

Once the children register as members of a CITW Eco-Club, they remain members and we follow them along their life path, using our advancing curriculum as they progress with their formal education from primary to secondary school, and then on to tertiary education. When they graduate and/or join the working class in their societies, they remain members of the CITW programme. Now they are at entry level into a local leadership role, while also volunteering to run CITW programme activities and other conservation and socio-economic projects.

We teach them to look at environmental and social issues through a different “lens” (to be more perceptive) so that they can develop a better narrative and theory from their own views. And then we help them to sharpen their theories into stories, and help them to identify the right audience for their messages.

We have also discovered that changing the lens on conservation is only possible when children discover gaps and weaknesses in how those environmental issues have been looked at previously. Therefore, teaching them skills to identify and then photograph an environmental issue, and discussing and writing a story about it, has also become an effective way for children to talk to policymakers at village and national levels.

Children’s impact on building a better tomorrow

2015: Caroline Kamanga in her first year with CITW, 10 years old. Learning about tree nurseries and reforestation.

2023: Caroline Kamanga after eight years with CITW, now 18 years old. She has participated in the establishment of over five school woodlots. Currently a university student.

Caroline is one of the 230 CITW youth who are members of our CITW YES programme. She is currently Chairperson of the CITW youth programme in the Northern Region of Malawi. During the first two weeks of schools opening, these youth visit primary schools and give talks to new Eco-Club members, and plan together with teachers on how Eco-Club activities are going to run during the current school term. CITW sponsored Caroline’s secondary, and tertiary education after her mother was unable to pay her school fees. In cases like Caroline’s, and all other scholarship beneficiaries and their families, they quickly appreciate the value and the call for conservation of wildlife and their environment, as the funds for scholarships are raised in line with tourism collectives and corporate social responsibility of companies working in and around national parks.

We appreciate that children’s voices on issues are very meaningful to them and their own generation, who are leaders in waiting. We take the time to listen, and evaluate their thoughts, and purposely include them into today’s agendas for building a better tomorrow. We learn that their ideas have a valid space in building a future that suits them better. The obvious truth is that without children there is no future, so it is that without proper children’s involvement, there is no way to ensure a better environment for tomorrow.

CITW Members’ Growth and Leadership Development Trajectory

Currently, we have over 230 stories of exceptional growth and development from our CITW youth.

2010: Aubert Thipa in his first year with CITW, 12 years old. Among other lessons, Aubert loved learning about elephants, tree nurseries and reforestation.

2023: Aubert Thipa after 13 years with CITW, 25 years old. He has been a CITW youth campaign organiser and currently works as a Field Safari Guide in Liwonde National Park.

Aubert is one of the CITW youths who are awareness campaign organisers. These are the youths who take their microphones and PA systems and go about talking to their own people about changing their lens on conservation. Aubert learns about all other wildlife through elephants, the animal that he has loved and which continues to amaze him.

Our Call for Action

The narrative above comes as we commence the 2023-24 Eco-Club season at the start of the school year. Our attention to children’s voices and their great hope for a better future informs our drive to organise more learning sessions and opportunities, so that more children can participate in the CITW Eco-Club programme. We are aiming to reach five new schools (i.e. establish five more Eco-Clubs) so that we can increase the number of children impacted by CITW by at least 25%. From 675 members, we would like to register a total of 1 000 Eco-Club members.

For those who believe that environmental issues of today have their solutions in a better tomorrow, join us by supporting our efforts to nurture tomorrow’s generation into conservation champions. Our 20 years of experience proves that it is possible to achieve sustainable conservation though calculated leadership development. Join us and together we can win by facilitating the desired sustainable conservation. It is possible!

Above: A CITW youth at a community awareness campaign. CITW youth speak to the local leaders around Liwonde National Park. Through actions and making their voices heard, they speak to their own people about conservation much better than any other speaker.

Above: Eco-Club members politely but effectively speak to their local leaders through their written stories and poems

Members’ Growth and Leadership Development Trajectory

Nelson Chikwewa – from being raised on poached resources from the Park, he has become an anti-poaching ranger working with African Parks Malawi.

“Welcome new Eco-Club members to the world of changing your lens on conservation!”

By Symon Chibaka – CITW Mw Programme Co-ordinator – September 2023

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