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Planet Aid’s Impact in Malawi

Recent articles in the media have raised questions about the effectiveness of Planet Aid’s development work in Malawi. We want to take this opportunity to set the record straight and highlight the breadth of our work there.

To begin, all of the projects we have managed have been subject to consistent and thorough review by federal agencies. In addition, as a U.S. incorporated 501(c)(3) non-profit, our tax documents are made public by the IRS and are always available on the Planet Aid website. Decades of official reviews of Planet Aid have come to the same conclusion: money that Planet Aid receives from individual donations and from U.S. government grants are responsibly used to support international development work and our domestic recycling program. The implementation and associated outcomes of the projects have all been in complete accordance with all agreements, and have met or exceeded expectations.

Here are some further details about our work in Malawi.

From 2006 to 2013 Planet Aid operated projects in the African nation of Malawi under Food for Progress grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. These projects were carried out in the districts of Lilongwe, Chiradzulu, Zomba, Thyolo, and Dowa, a combined area that spans the central and southern regions of the nation. The projects tackled multiple crippling challenges facing rural populations, which ranged from stopping the destructive spread of HIV/AIDS to providing access to basic education by increasing the supply of primary school teachers.

Planet Aid’s HIV/AIDS project reached over 800,000 individuals, and was co-funded by the National AIDS Commission in Malawi. Our progress in improving primary education in Malawi included the construction of two new teacher training colleges in the remote districts of Dowa and Thyolo. These newly established colleges, which were developed with the full approval and cooperation of the Malawi Ministry of Education, trained over 1,500 new primary school teachers during our Food for Progress project tenure. The colleges continue to train additional new teachers every year, and will remain lasting testaments to Planet Aid’s educational development work in Malawi.

Planet Aid’s work under Food for Progress in Malawi also included development assistance to 20,000 farm families across the Lilongwe, Chiradzulu, Zomba, and Dowa districts.  As per the provisions of our contract, we created numerous small farmer associations called Farmers’ Clubs. These clubs were provided with training in cropping techniques that would increase production, and taught how to leverage their collective bargaining power in purchasing inputs and selling products.

We also provided each club with an easily maintained water pump for free, and created demonstration fields where participants could experiment with new methods being introduced during the project period.  In total, we distributed 970 water pumps. 

The projects in Malawi also included the distribution of livestock as part of a “pass-on grant” program, whereby the offspring were “passed on” among farmers in the club. By the end of the project period, we had distributed 6,000 livestock. The population of these animals has continued to expand. This was how the project was set up; it was budgeted accordingly, and it was fully audited and evaluated. One of those evaluations from 2012 reported that: “Overall, the end of program evaluation found that the program had made substantial progress towards its objectives. All of the program’s Expected Results had registered perceptible achievements, with continued improvements in the key outcomes areas such as food security, increased incomes among beneficiary households and improved market linkages. This has been due to increased productivity and incomes arising either directly or indirectly from the FCP outputs.”

Underscoring the vital nature of Planet Aid’s work in Malawi is the fact that today the entire country is in a state of emergency because of widespread food shortages brought about by an historic drought that began in 2015. While development projects cannot completely overcome the devastating impact of an extreme weather event such as a drought, the skills and techniques brought to Malawi through the projects are helping the country’s people better cope with the crisis.  

Planet Aid is incredibly proud of our legacy in Malawi.  We look forward to continued close collaboration with the U.S. government and our development project partners.

Ester Neltrup

President and CEO
Planet Aid