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Plant With Purpose in the Warm Heart of Africa

The launch of our newest program expands partnership and hope to the people of Malawi

At the beginning of 2024, Plant With Purpose opened its ninth country program in Malawi. While it is the newest of our partners, the work in Malawi is positioned well to apply the lessons learned from our global network.

To celebrate the launch, members of Plant With Purpose’s U.S. team attended a launch ceremony in Nkhata Bay, including CEO Scott Sabin. At the beginning of his visit, Scott reflects on all the preparation that led up to this moment.

I arrived in “The Warm Heart of Africa” for a week, to attend the official launch of the newest Plant With Purpose partner. 

One of the most frequent questions I am asked is about how we start a new program, and this program in Malawi provides a perfect example.

Plant With Purpose in the Warm heart of Africa

We started our planning with a matrix, which we created years ago. It allows us to determine how the needs in a particular country line up with what we have to offer. We examine a number of factors like the level of poverty, the rate of deforestation, the level of soil degradation, and the percentage of energy requirements that are met via traditional fuels, to evaluate which countries are the best match. 

That process led us to Malawi.

The next step involved making initial contacts, often via introductions from peer organizations, while our internal team did further research regarding the specific contexts. 

When I was last here in 2022, we had decided to move forward and at that time, met with government officials, church leaders, and other ministries. We also interviewed the final candidates for the local director position.

We hired Elizabeth Maneya, a woman with deep faith and an impressive history of leading ministry work for the Anglican church. She had also held a number of senior roles with various development organizations. At one point, she helped establish the Malawi branch of another NGO, so she was no stranger to the work of bringing an international organization to Malawi. Since being hired, she has shown tremendous energy and fortitude. 

Our team worked with Elizabeth to recruit board members, get the organization legally registered, set up offices, hire staff, secure vehicles, and develop policies. With the team in place, there was more to be done!

Scott addresses the community in the warm heart of Africa

A lot of work went into determining exactly where in the country to start. In 2022 we had already begun mapping watersheds, using GIS tools to determine the intersections between the areas of greatest poverty, highest rates of deforestation, and greatest vulnerability to erosion. That led us north, to the region around Mzuzu. 

After our local team had spent some time on the ground, a couple of target watersheds were chosen, and, in addition to networking with local leaders, we began doing household surveys for a baseline study. This allows us to measure the specific levels of poverty and environmental degradation, so that we can later evaluate our impact. Two of the most critical questions we will be asking over the coming years are “are we truly making a difference?” and “how much of a difference are we making?” I attribute much of our success elsewhere to being able to effectively answer these questions and make corrections when the answers are unsatisfactory.

Now, with much of that in place, all that remains before we can start setting up Purpose Groups is the official public launch, which is what brought me to Malawi in January of this year.

By the end of June, we expect to have the first 20 Purpose Groups and the first 15 church partnerships established. Thus far, Malawi definitely lives up to its nickname as the Warm Heart of Africa. I am excited by the prospect of many more visits, and a deepening relationship with our local team and the families we will be serving here.

About the Author

Since 1993, Scott has played a significant role in the progress and growth of our organization. Scott leads a wonderful team of committed individuals and partners along with our amazing colleagues around the world. Scott is overjoyed when he sees our partners blossom and become the leaders of this mission. Scott attributes the success of our organization to perseverance and willingness to ask hard questions about effectiveness and impact.

Through journal articles, public speaking, and his book, “Tending to Eden”, Scott has become an advocate for reforestation as a key component of sustainable community development around the world. Prior to working for Plant With Purpose, he served for seven years in the Navy. Scott received his Bachelor of Science in Political Science from Oregon State University, as well as a Master of Arts in International Relations from University of San Diego. Outside of work, Scott enjoys sailing and spending time with his family. He also  believes that everything can be better expressed through a song lyric.

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