By Gospel Mwalwanda:
Kumbukani Mamba, 27, was not there when Malawi’s first President Hastings Kamuzu Banda inculcated in the country’s youth the virtue of self-help work.
Mamba was born when Kamuzu Banda, who died in 1997, was in the twilight of his life, yet today he is doing exactly what Kamuzu Banda tirelessly spoke about.
Mamba’s belief in expending one’s energy and resources to help the youth in their endeavours saw him founding Springs of Malawi, a non-profit organisation.
Springs of Malawi is a unique, non-government organisation (NGO) that relies on members’ contributions and its income generating activities (IGAs).
Members include professionals — who currently number 24 – in various disciplines scattered across Malawi with some living abroad, according to Mamba.
The NGO comprises economists, ICT professionals, a lawyer, horticulturist, a demographer, an irrigation engineer, tailors, one teacher, an accountant, environmental scientist, journalist and a nurse and midwife, among others.
“As various problems have multiple causes, their solutions require a multi-sector approach,” says Mamba, justifying the mix of Springs of Malawi’s membership.
He says the diversity in Springs of Malawi taps from the mix of individuals with different and unique skills in addressing problems youths and communities face.
“By putting youth at the centre of initiatives, we are giving them a platform to showcase their capabilities,” says Mamba, the Executive Director of the NGO.
Mamba worked as an intern for six months in 2017 under a World Bank project in the Department of Economic Planning and Development after graduating in 2016.
As one who believes in self-reliance, he moved to Balaka District from Lilongwe in 2018 and started a poultry business, naming it Economico Foods, rearing broilers.
Mamba later diversified into irrigation farming and that was the time he saw the reality of how the country’s majority rural population was living.
He says living with people who are barely surviving saddled with a lot of social economic challenges made him realise how hard life is for an average Malawian.
“During this period, I met a lot of brilliant youths including entrepreneurs, intellectuals, and individuals with unique technical skills,” Mamba says.
He says all the people he met have great potential to contribute to the development of the country.
Mamba says: “I realized that Malawi has a lot of unexploited resources, human inclusive. If fully utilized, they can contribute to the country’s development.”
“What these individuals including myself have in common is a lack of a platform to showcase our capabilities,” he says.
The lack of a platform to showcase youth capabilities prompted Mamba to team up with his associates, leading to the birth of Springs of Malawi in 2020.
“The organisation pooled together diverse minds with the aim of solving problems facing our communities,” says Mamba.
“The organisation embraces the power of diversity, unity and patriotism as main agents of development. It also promotes the self-help spirit among its members.”
Springs of Malawi was registered with Balaka District Youth Office in 2020. Plans are afoot to have it registered with the Council for Non- Governmental Organisations in Malawi (Congoma).
The organisation has so far come up with initiatives in public health, business management and education sectors, using its own resources.
Springs of Malawi early this year donated masks to the Balaka office of the Malawi Blood Transfusion Services (MBTS).
The donation was made after the MBTS introduced a regulation barring anyone not wearing a mask from entering any of its centres in the country.
The organisation is also involved in tailoring and designing, giving youth who have a passion for vocational jobs a chance to learn and share their skills.
“They youth are also enrolled on online business management courses where they acquire business management techniques,” says Mamba.
And there is the school bag project which, according to Mamba, is one of the organisation’s flagship project targeting children in remote areas.
Mamba says the project is currently being piloted in Balaka and that if it proves a success, they will roll it out to the rest of the districts.
“If implemented to its full capacity, it has the potential of employing more than 200 youths,” says the soft-spoken Mamba, who hails from Goliati, Thyolo District.
Springs of Malawi collects used polythene bags of sugar, fertiliser and seed from which their tailors voluntarily make affordable, waterproof school bags.
The project has made 300 school bags priced at K850 each which will be given to school children in rural Balaka. The average price of bag in a shop is K5,000.
“To help fight climate change, Springs of Malawi with our team of designers came up with a project for reusable bags made from recyclable material,” Mamba says.
“The aim is to help reduce the use of plastics and fight climate change, promote quality education, and enhance entrepreneurship skills among the youth.”
The self-help spirit of Springs of Malawi to improve the welfare of youth and communities has not been lost on the district council.
“Their vision to improve the wellbeing of youth is in line with government policies,” says Ida Mkwezalamba, Acting Environmental District Officer for Balaka.
Mkwezalamba says it is the wish of government that the country’s youth be involved in development activities so that they lead independent lives.
She commended the initiative to recycle used sacks to make school backs, saying it will greatly assist in waste management.
“As you aware, many district councils are struggling with issues of waste management,” Mkwezalamba told this writer.
She said: “Therefore their involvement in waste management is a plus.”
Mamba is appealing to people of goodwill to sponsor a child by buying a bag, saying the gesture will go a long way in motivating a rural child to like school.
Mamba says the challenge they have with the school bag project is that they do not have a steady supply of the polythene sacks.
“We wish we had an agreement with companies that use packaging sacks to be recalling them for recycling through our school bag project,” he says.
Mamba’s enthusiasm for self-help work stems from the stories his father told him about Kamuzu Banda and how he wanted the youth to embrace voluntarism.
“Growing up around a father who was a secondary school history teacher, I was much exposed to the history of Malawi and Africa in general,” he says.
He learned at an early age how Dr Kamuzu Banda once entrusted Aleke Banda with a key portfolio, although the latter was the youngest in his cabinet.
“From the stories my father told me, I learned and developed patriotism, hard work and self help spirit,” says the bearded Mamba, who is still single.
He says it is through such belief in youth capabilities that he was influenced and motivated to be part of the development agenda of the nation.
“We are the problems and solutions,” says Mamba, perhaps the only one in the country heading an NGO who is not salaried.
He is a graduate of Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR)-Bunda College with a BSc degree in Agricultural Economics.