Responsible travel: Malawi accommodation, Ntchisi Forest Reserve
The lodge is entirely run on renewable energy, with a wind turbine and solar panels catering for all of our electricity needs. Most of the lighting in the lodge comes from candles and old-fashioned oil lamps, which creates an olde-worlde and romantic atmosphere. A highly efficient solar water heater provides the hot water for showers. All of our waste is separated, with compost and the ashes from burnt paper and cardboard waste helping to nourish our organic vegetable garden.
The kitchen garden provides most of the fruits, vegetables and herbs used in our delicious home cooking and we are always happy to give a tour of the gardens.
As in most African countries, deforestation is a serious problem in Malawi. The Forest Reserve is an area of outstanding natural beauty and is home to one of the last remaining patches of indigenous rainforest in southern Africa. As such, we are committed to help protect it. As well as working with the government’s Department of Forestry, which educates the local people about the dangers of deforestation, we have set up a project helping villages to establish ‘community forests’ by providing tree seeds and training. Hopefully, these forests will give people easy access to firewood and wood for building, and therefore reduce the need for people to cut down trees within the Forest Reserve.
We are also project partners with a Malawian NGO, which has recently been awarded a significant grant in order to preserve the biodiversity of the Reserve. This project is only just getting off the ground but we are hopeful it will help secure the future of the forest
We are located in a remote part of rural Africa where absolute poverty is widespread, and as the only employer in the area, we feel it is our duty to assist the local community. We have therefore established a Community Trust funded by donations from ourselves and from our guests.
As a guest, you are encouraged to visit current projects, discuss progress with the local people and get a better sense of what life is really like in rural Malawi. So many travelers rush through a country without getting a real sense of the place and people they are visiting. Your visit with us will enable you to stop and listen, and, if you like, to participate in making a difference.
Our projects aim to foster a culture of self-sufficiency amongst the locals rather than being one-off charitable donations. Current projects include chicken farming, where we have provided chickens and training for nearby villages to set up a business selling eggs back to the lodge, which you will be eating for breakfast. We have established a number of village tree nurseries to create community forests, thus helping to protect the Forest Reserve in which we are located and where you will be going for walks while staying with us.
Our Trust provides financial assistance and business advice to a collective of local bee keepers, and we use the honey in our cooking at the lodge, and even sell it to guests. We have donated macadamia trees to local farmers to provide another cash crop (in association with a fair-trade organisation selling nuts in the UK); and we give financial and training assistance to the local nursery school, which you can visit to play with the kids. We have also recently provided assistance to a newly established club of coffee farmers and look forward to being able to serve coffee grown on our mountain’s slopes when they start harvesting.
Support for staff:
We only employ people from the local villages and in addition work closely with several ‘freelance’ guides from the village. In this way we do our best to create the only job opportunities in this remote area and encourage the local people to make money from tourism
Apart from our own staff, we have created a good relationship with the local traditional healer, who can take you for walks in the forest. Local women in the nearby village will also invite you to their huts to learn how to cook local specialties and eat lunch with them.
Most people in the area are poorly educated, and the training we provide gives them new opportunities in life that they would not otherwise have had. We have also put various staff schemes into practice, such as loans for business activities. Help is always at hand when illness or poverty threatens our staff or their families.