WAMATA is an organisation established by members of the community living on the shores of Lake Nyasa (Lake Malawi). WAMATA aims to tackle the spread and impact of HIV/AIDS, which is particularly prevalent in the local area.
The two main reasons for the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the local area are a lack of education and economic difficulties.
Firstly, a lack of education means that many local people are ignorant about the spread of HIV/AIDS. Those employed in fishing can often move around as part of their work, without the knowledge to practice safe sex, this inevitably leads to the spread of HIV.
Alarmingly, WAMATA explains that the lack of education can often spread to those working in clinics for HIV positive patients. Many HIV positive members of the community have stopped attending clinics for medication, as they feel they are blamed and stigmatised by the clinic staff themselves.
Secondly, the local communities being economically weak also leads to the spread of HIV/AIDS. When speaking to members of the community, casual sex was often referred to as a means of quenching boredom. For some without money or purpose in their days, sex is seen as a free means of entertainment!
There is also a significant problem of fishermen colluding to prevent women from being able to buy fish, unless they engage in sex with them. With fish being one of the abundant food sources in the local area, the women are coerced into agreeing.
COCO empowered WAMATA to establish a farm using sustainable agriculture techniques, growing beans and onions. On the initial farm, WAMATA employed a group of widows to complete the cultivation. Upon harvesting, the produce was sold with the group of widows taking a share of the profits. The rest of the funds were used to establish new community gardens.
So far, 5 gardens have been established, which are cultivated by small groups of around 12 people. The gardens empower the community members economically and also provides a hub from which education regarding HIV/AIDS can be distributed.
The gardens are in their infancy, but already community members are keenly sharing their new found knowledge and are pleased to have a purpose for their day. We’re excited to track their progress over the coming months!
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