One of the great things about working with talented and active community groups like Tafika is that they tell you exactly what they do and don't want to achieve. As voluntary consultants it is then our job to try and make this happen. Tafika are a Youth Group of 350 volunteers based near Ekwendeni in northern Malawi. They told us they didn't want to have to rely on government or NGOs to fund their community projects so we worked with them to organise a day long community workshop to talk about Income Generating Ideas. We provided a structure and examples and then the 30 people in the room started working coming up with literally hundreds of ideas, big and small, about how they could make money and become self sufficient.
The group whittled down the ideas and agreed to work up a business case for three ideas, one long term and two short term, all of which had meaningful and sustainable income generating possibilities.
We helped the community turn the ideas into investable propositions and then found investors in the UK to fund the projects.
The idea of investment rather than donation is central to Tafika's thinking, they won't turn away donations but they believe they need to give something back to the people who help them get their projects off the ground. The main issue with setting up small businesses in Malawi is that credit is offered at rates of 25-30%, an impossible ask for most business ideas. Instead we sought to bring long term UK investors who wanted a realistic return but were willing to take this over a long term horizon. This in itself causes problems with inflation risk and exchange rate risk so, for our first project we opted to commoditise returns for investors. Simply put we helped Tafika built a forest and the investor gets trees and carbon rather than cash.
Trees ... Trees ... Trees
The Tafika Community forest project started in March 2022 and 6 of the 12 acres of land have been planted with fast growing pine for construction timber. Trees take 10-12 years to grow and one acre will yield enough cash for Tafika to be self sufficient. This long term project is the first step in realising the communities dream to becoming self sufficient. Watch this space to see how the other 2 projects have got on.
KEY to these projects is the belief that what we do should be repeatable by any other group, individual or organisation - we have attached our business case for investors so anyone else can get a flying start in building a commercial forest - please download the business case and use it if it helps.