By Humza Yousaf*
Today I am travelling to Malawi, for my second visit to that beautiful country.
I’m travelling there because next month marks the tenth anniversary of the Cooperation Agreement signed by the Governments of Malawi and Scotland, and while I am there, as well as meeting with a number of Government Ministers, I will visit some of the projects funded by the Scottish Government, and delivered by Scottish organisations.
It’s a great chance for me to see first-hand the enormous difference that the partnership between Scotland and Malawi makes to the lives of Malawians, and to meet some of the people who have benefited from the projects we support, and to hear of the impact that this work has had upon their lives.
Scots should be very proud of the work we’ve done with Malawi, and after ten years it’s very easy to see the real difference that has been made thanks to the cooperation between our two countries.
To mark the ten years of partnership, here’s ten ways Scottish Government funded projects have changed lives in Malawi.
1. Medical training
Since 2006, the Scottish Government has funded the Universities of St Andrews and Edinburgh to build capacity and strengthen teaching and learning at the College of Medicine in Blantyre. A combined total of over £2.4 million has been spent on 9 projects through which medical academics and professionals have contributed to the quadrupling of the annual number of medical graduates in Malawi from 16 to over 100.
St Andrews and Edinburgh have worked in close partnership with the College of Medicine to improve technology and improve the general quality teaching and learning, using Scottish expertise to make a profound contribution to Malawi’s only medical school.
2. Renewable Energy
The Scottish Government’s £2.3m flagship Malawi Renewable Energy Acceleration Programme (MREAP) is our single biggest International Development project to date, and has brought new energy access to almost 80,000 people in rural Malawi through a range of technologies including solar, micro-hydro, biogas and fuel efficient cookstoves. MREAP took a unique approach, with intensive levels of community engagement supporting the communities themselves to take decisions on their own energy priorities.
3. Cervical screening
A project in Malawi delivered by NHS Lothian in partnership with Nkhoma Hospital and funded by the Scottish Government has provided cervical screening to more than 10,000 women and raised awareness on the importance of screening among 33,000 people.
4. Meningitis awareness
Training delivered by the Meningitis Research Foundation is helping medical professionals in Malawi spot the early signs of meningitis in children. Thanks to the scheme health care workers are better able to spot the early signs of the disease and nearly 140,000 children attending primary health care were priorities for treatment by clinicians and received timely emergency treatment and referral to hospital when severely ill.
5. Vocational education
A project run by the Global Concerns Trust has given 106 adults with disabilities training in carpentry or tailoring and given 57 the tools they need to start up their business. Thanks to the scheme, 21 primary schools now offer extra-curricular vocational training, all within rural areas, with approximately 40% of participants being girls and at least 560 pupils have received some vocational training over the three years of the scheme.
6. Helping people earn a living
Another Global Concerns Trust project has given 62 people with disabilities vocational training, as well as training in business skills and HIV/AIDS. This training has helped people to earn a living, with an average more than fivefold increase in income for those trained.
7. Improving educational standards
Link Community Development Scotland have been working with the Malawian Department of Inspection and Advisory Services (DIAS) to establish the new National Education Standards (NES) to support education inspection and advisory services in Malawi.
8. Improving the treatment of mental illness
Since 2010, the Scotland Malawi Mental Health Education Project has worked to improve the treatment of mental illness through the education and training of mental healthcare professionals in Malawi, particularly focussing on improving the identification and treatment of maternal depression and post natal depression. Its flagship achievement was to establish Malawi’s first ever Masters in clinical psychiatry at the College of Medicine in Blantyre. Further funding has enabled SMMHEP to roll this training out to community level. District Mental Health Teams that have so far trained over 100 primary healthcare workers to improve mental health in communities in 2 districts of Malawi.
9. Helping smallholders boost crops.
The James Hutton Institute has been delivering a project helping rural smallholders face up to climate change, establishing 100 Climate Smart Agriculture clubs which planted out 85,000 trees. As well as this, 2,000 banana plants were distributed to smallholders, and the project established of 480 home gardens and gave 30 farmers seeds which would thrive under changing climates.
10. Scotland Malawi Partnership and Malawi Scotland Partnership
The Scottish Government has supported the Scotland Malawi Partnership (SMP) and its sister organisation the Malawi Scotland Partnership (MaSP), based in Malawi, for over a decade. Since then, the SMP’s membership has grown to more than 700, including local authorities, universities and colleges, schools, churches, hospitals, businesses, charities, NGOs and community-based organisations all over Scotland.
Through the two organisations, more than 94,000 Scots and 198,000 Malawians work in partnership together each year, and each year more than 300,000 Scots and 2 million Malawians benefit from the activities of the SMP, MaSP and their members.
And that last example is important, because it underlines the partnership approach that lies behind Scottish development work, based on people-to-people to links supported through Scottish organisations.
We benefit enormously in Scotland from our relationship with Malawi. For example, our recent Hydro Nation project has seen officials from both Governments working together and learning from each other on water management, governance and legislation. This knowledge sharing has informed new, updated legislation in both countries. Both Scotland and Malawi share an interest in water resource management, community management of assets and increasing public engagement, and we are learning from each other in these areas.
This unique partnership approach means Scotland will continue to learn from Malawi, at the same time as we share our expertise.
These ten achievements demonstrate ten years of benefit in health, in education and in energy. Many challenges still exist, but by working together we can help to eliminate poverty in Malawi.
*The author is Scottish Government Minister for International Development