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A bit about Ruarwe...


...and its surrounding villages

The Area

Ruarwe is a small fishing village located along the shores of lake Malawi. It is an extremely poor part of the country relying almost exclusively on subsistence farming and fishing for its economic needs.

There has been almost no development in infrastructure in the area for a very long time; there are no roads or proficient transport networks, no power grids at all, extremely limited phone reception and no access to basic services such as banks, markets, communications, hospitals, agricultural/veterinary support, etc.

Tourism plays a small and growing part in the economic development of the area. Each year the newly established community centre (Nyumba Ya Masambiro) hosts many volunteers from different parts of the globe, and NYM sources all of its staff and supplies from local villages in the Ruarwe zone wherever possible. Zulunkhuni River Lodge remains the largest employer in the community with 11 local staff and it aims to source as many goods as possible (food supplies, building materials etc.) from the immediate areas.

Phunzira's development projects in Malawi are targeted at Ruarwe and its surrounding villages: Khondowe, Bunga and Banda (Nkhata-Bay North region). The area was chosen in order to generate much needed community development in an extremely impoverished part of north Malawi, and to promote a healthy, educational environment in a region where access to resources and funding are inadequate.

Education and Community

There are two secondary schools and a number of primary schools in the area that are in great need of educational support, since the majority are overcrowded, underfunded and grossly understaffed. Hence for students, even the most basic of educational resources and materials (including chairs and tables!) are not always available at their schools. At Phunzira we aim to work alongside educational bodies and institutions in order to support both the continuity of academic education and of learning as a life long pursuit.

Due to the remoteness of Ruarwe's location, accessing any type of current news or up-to-date information has always been a huge challenge for local villagers, where even the sight of last week's newspaper is a rare ocassion! With the establishment of an educational centre that is free-of-charge and open to all, the population in and near to Ruarwe should greatly benefit from the ability to access a well-equipped library, as well as free information covering basic life skills specific to the area.

Phunzira hopes that the willingness of the local communities, schools and pre-existing committees to participate in our projects would enable them to reach their full potential, helping to ensure their long-term success as community-run initiatives. In addition, Ruarwe is an extremely poor part of the country so nearby communities would greatly benefit from any work generated by Phunzira whilst fulfilling its objectives in the area.

Health Needs

Until recently villagers have had to travel exceptionally long distances, usually by foot, just to seek basic medical attention. As a result, many people were falling sick and in some cases dying of otherwise treatable diseases such as malaria, diarrhoeal disease and respiratory tract infections. The majority of disease falls into the category of communicable, maternal, perinatal and nutritional.

HIV/AIDS is a complex and sensitive issue and as such is a great challenge for Phunzira. The majority of the local population are unaware of their status and there is a high level of fear and stigmatisation surrounding the disease.

Pregnant women are required to walk 4-8 hours to the nearest health centre for any antenatal care services. Another area of focus is nutrition - this is especially important in the under 5's group and women of reproductive age where the consequences of poor nutrition can be devastating.

The lack of infrastructure in the area makes accessing health services extremely difficult and its remote position means there has been little development in the area of health education, which is essential to empowering communities to live healthier lives.

When Phunzira arrived in Ruarwe the local health clinic had been closed for over ten years. In 2011 Phunzira was lucky enough to find a full-time UK doctor to volunteer her services in Ruarwe village for a pilot run. With assistance from the District Health Officer the centre was reopened for a 3 month trial period with over 800 patients passing through its doors. Click here to see what we found out from this research. Since then the clinic has been mostly open and run by either international voluntary doctors or local medical assistants placed temporarily by the District Health Officer in Nkhata Bay. All medical volunteers that visit Ruarwe also conduct health training sessions as well as embarking on clinical research. Phunzira continues to work closely with the Ministry of Health and is currently funding a successful, local applicant from Bunga to complete a training course at the Malawi College of Health Sciences in order to become a medical assistant and keep the clinic in Ruarwe open sustainably in the longer term. 



All projects initiated by Phunzira are designed to be financially self-sustainable in the long-term, so that they can be run entirely by local communities without economic dependence on external individuals or organisations.

All initiatives are constructed to become spaces belonging to the community and driven by its needs - local involvement in the design and operation of these initiatives is key to meeting Phunzira's overall objectives.

Energy and Materials

Roughly 90% of Malawi's energy needs are satisfied by wood fuel, 45% of which comes from non-sustainable sources. Renewable energy sources are key to the sustainability of our projects and the impact they have on their surrounding environment.

Solar energy was introduced to the community centre in December 2011, as was the preferred choice since PV panels consume little physical space and are easy to maintain. Before then the only way to access electricity in the area was through a generator. In 2013 hydroelectricity was implemented at the community centre, primary school and health clinic, helped by the plentiful nearby rivers and waterfalls.

Phunzira likes to promote compost areas (including compost toilets) - the liquid and solid waste is stored, treated and used either as a fertilizer for some of the non-food crops grown in the gardens, or mixed with solid biowaste to enhance soil condition.

The majority of materials bought by Phunzira (including solar panels) are purchased or manufactured from the north of Malawi in order to boost the local economy.


In the short-term Phunzira will fulfill its objectives by sourcing international volunteers to assist with educational and health-related initiatives. In the longer-term representatives from the local community will be selected to receive relevant training, so that all of Phunzira's projects can eventually be managed and maintained by the community alone.

For all Phunzira initiatives that require a short or long-term labour force, at least 80% will be unskilled and sourced directly from the areas around Ruarwe in order to promote the acquisition of new skills within our catchment areas.