Habitat for Humanity (Malawi) works in partnership with local communities and the
government to build simple, decent houses and latrines. A locally-elected committee
chooses applicants based on total combined income (less than US$43 monthly - rural areas;
less than US$57 monthly - urban areas), their willingness to provide volunteer labour
(transporting all materials from the HFH office, providing all bricks, performing all
unskilled labour), and their willingness and ability to repay the cost of the inputs.
Habitat for Humanity (Malawi) provides all materials and skilled labour. Repayments are
put into a revolving fund which stays in the community to build more houses and latrines.
Habitat for Humanity (Malawi) works with the local, district, and national government
as well as with traditional authorities (chiefs and headmen) in planning and
implementation. In addition, each community where Habitat for Humanity (Malawi) works is
required to form a locally-elected committee to represent the community of need. In this
way, everyone from beneficiaries to government leaders have a say in the operations of the
programme. Habitat for Humanity (Malawi) has an excellent reputation country-wide for
successfully housing low-income groups. The organization is overseen by an indigenous
Malawian Board of Directors.
In operation for 9 years, Habitat for Humanity (Malawi) has been learning from its
mistakes and refining its methodology. The entire scheme is based on partnerships from the
boardroom to the beneficiary; this diversity and input strengthens the organization. By
providing a hand-up, not a hand-out, the programme relies on the participation of the
The key to the programme's success is that community is emphasized over output. The
average constructing community builds less than 10 houses per month. But as the work is
facilitated at the community level, the combined number of people being housed grows
exponentially. Further, by teaching people that they can overcome their own problems by
forming local committees and developing self-help revolving funds, thousands are being
The sustainability of the organization rests on the following precepts:
- Habitat for Humanity (Malawi) is a Christian organization.
- Strong partnerships are formed at all levels, encouraging active participation.
- Education meetings explain the scheme to the community and to applicants.
- Home owners are required to provide volunteer labour, thereby increasing their
commitment to their house and the scheme, and also decreasing house cost.
- Home owners are required to repay the cost of all inputs provided by Habitat for
Humanity (Malawi); while no profit or interest is charged, repayments are indexed to the
cost of cement (the biggest input in the house) to protect against inflation. Repayments
are used to build more houses and latrines in the community, promoting social
- Houses are inexpensive and affordable; the house design is culturally acceptable.
Partnerships are foundational to Habitat for Humanity (Malawi). Partnerships are formed at
all levels for the strengthening and furthering of the work. Key partnerships are listed
- With Habitat for Humanity International, the parent organization, to provide: partial
funding, training and education materials, volunteers, accountability.
- With local, regional, and national governmental bodies to provide: land, infrastructure,
tax- and duty-free status, public support, advice, technical support, resources and
- With various funding agencies, to assist with housing, water, conservation efforts, and
other projects: World Learning Incorporated, Homeless International, diplomatic community,
business community, service organizations.
- With volunteer agencies: Peace Corps, WUSC (World University Service of Canada),
International Executive Service Corps.
- With local leadership, to provide land and other forms of support: chiefs, headmen,
church and community leaders, locally-elected committees.
- With home owners, to provide: an understanding of needs, service on local committees,
volunteer labour, repayments of inputs.
Perhaps the biggest problem facing most Southern countries today is urban migration. The
poor, under-educated rural population is increasingly moving into urban centres looking
for work or an imporved living standard. Increasing populations are straining cities'
abilities to provide basic services - water, sanitation, shelter, education, health care.
At the same time rural populations are dwindling, thus lessening the agricultrual base and
in many cases decreasing the nation's food stores.
While Habitat for Humanity (Malawi) concentrates its work in the rural areas, the rural
and urban populations are very closely linked in this country. Standard practice is for a
family to send one or two members to the city to find a job and share the income with the
rest of the family who stays behind; it is a method of diversifying incomes. Another
common practice is for a family to move to the city during the working life of the
provider (usually the husband), then return to the home village upon retirement.
As the Habitat for Humanity (Malawi) scheme's goal is home ownership, it plays an
important role in slowing urbanization. Many families receive their first valuable asset
in the form of their Habitat for Humanity (Malawi) house. The house increases the living
standards of the family; it is property that will be inherited by the next generation.
Overall health of the family improves, and time that was once spent repairing and
re-thatching their traditional house is now freed up for other activities. A Habitat for
Humanity (Malawi) house increases the family's interest in upgrading their community, and
as such is often a catalyst for other projects such as building a school, putting in piped
water, or establishing a clinic.
In addition, Habitat for Humanity (Malawi) is working in urban centres to address the
growing need for shelter and sanitation in the rapidly growing cities. By maintaining an
active revolving fund, more and more families are being provided with adequate homes in
the growing cities of Malawi. Best of all, the poor are freed up from paying rent to an
absentee landlord. Urban dwellers also gain access to land otherwise unobtainable to them.
The government of Malawi has given blocks of land for the poor to be housed, and obtain
their own land title.
Another outcome of Habitat for Humanity (Malawi)'s work is job creation. Each of the 12
project sites has created approximately 50 jobs within the community; the majority of
these jobs go to local craftsmen and artisans. Many are also eligible for and receive a
Habitat for Humanity (Malawi) house.
The environment is another concern of the organization. Habitat for Humanity (Malawi) has
worked closely in partnership with the Departments of Agriculture and Forestry, WUSC, and
Peace Corps to strengthen its response to environmental degredation and the needs of the
communities in which it works. Aforestation efforts head the list, with 9 sponsored
nurseries growing an estimated 150,000 seedlings in the 1995/96 rainy season. The
Department of Forestry has donated its expertise in teaching people how to sprout
seedlings and plant and care for trees. 1995 marks the first year Habitat for Humanity
(Malawi) has embarked on a programme to collect and sprout indigenous trees, with the
assistance of home owners. Agroforestry is being promoted with the technical and
educational assistance of the Department of Agriculture.
Other conservation efforts include introducing and distributing ceramic stoves which burn
charcoal more efficiently, thus reducing deforestation; providing a vegetable seed bank to
promote kitchen gardens; soil reclamation and fertility improvement; erosion control
through the use of napier grass; the promotion of permaculture techniques in gardening
practices. The majority of these services, while aimed at Habitat for Humanity (Malawi)
home owners, are available for community participation, thus improving the overall living
environment of the greater community.
- 3,027 low-cost houses and latrines have been built to date in Malawi.
- 18,162 have directly benefited from the programme (estimate).
- An estimated 461 communities have participated in the scheme, encouraging self-help and
The community-based work of Habitat for Humanity (Malawi) is encouraging people to work
together to address their housing problems. Instead of waiting for others to solve their
problems, people are learning that success and change rests in them. The Government and
other change agents are focusing on this very basic principle as the means which will move
development forward in the country. Habitat's scope and expanse of work provides and
example of success for other change agents and communities to examine and learn from.
The Government of Malawi has also included Habitat for Humanity (Malawi) in policy
formation on various issues (land ownership affecting women; housing codes and laws) both
directly and indirectly. The Government's support of Habitat for Humanity (Malawi)
includes taking the organization's needs into consideration when debating new policies and
Habitat for Humanity (Malawi) has assisted in introducing several technologies to the
country. Low-cost cement roofing tiles have been a standard on Habitat houses since 1988,
encouraging acceptance of the tiles as a valid construction material. Today in Malawi the
cement roof tiles are ubiquitous and not only on Habitat for Humanity (Malawi) houses; a
similar cement tile is used by Rural Housing Programme, and several small businesses have
sprung up selling the tiles commercially. Habitat for Humanity (Malawi) also played a role
in introducing the HydraForm M5 Blockmaking Machines. These diesel-powered machines
produce a dense, compacted brick which can be dry-stacked, allowing for quick construction
without the need for mortar. The technology is perfectly suited for such self-help
projects as clinics and schools - and the government and several donor agencies are
currently using the technology for these purposes. The Conservation Department has also
promoted solar box cookers and fuel-efficient charcoal stoves.
Public awareness about low-cost housing needs has certainly increased due to Habitat for
Humanity (Malawi)'s presence in the country. The organization is familiar to almost
everyone and several sectors of society support the work in a variety of ways.
Habitat for Humanity/National Office
P.O. BOX 2436
Habitat for Humanity (Malawi) and the Republic of Malawi
Habitat for Humanity (Malawi)
P.O. BOX 2436
Habitat for Humanity (Malawi)
P.O. BOX 2436
Republic of Malawi, Ministry of Housing
PRINCIPLE SECRETARY, MIN. OF HOUSING
P.O. BOX 30548