Malawi: Adult Vocational Training – Giving Refugees Greater Entrepreneurial Horizons
23 June 2015

Participants in the Adult Vocational Skills Training Programme showcasing their work. (Left) Furniture from the Woodwork/Carpentry programme. (Centre and Left) Items from the Tailoring and Handicraft programme. (Rufino L. Seva / Jesuit Refugee Services)
“The aim is for participants to start income generation initiatives once they have completed the course. This is a tangible result of the vocational training programme, those that complete the programme are able to create livelihoods for themselves and support their families and themselves.”

Dzaleka, Dowa district, 16 June 2015 – The Malawian government, as many other governments across the world, have confined and restricted the movement of refugees to refugee camps such as Dzaleka Camp. With approximately 21000 refugees from as far afield as Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo, those that find refuge in Dzaleka Camp need to sustain their livelihoods, feed themselves and their families. Therefore, in an area that could be described as a small a town, Rufino Seva, Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), Malawi Country Director explains that “an economy has developed.”

Like all other economies - large or small - its survival and growth is dependent on the skills of its participants being cultivated and grown. The Adult Vocational Skills Training Programme not only ensures that this economy continues to exist, but more importantly ensures that the refugees living within the camp continue to expand their opportunities and horizons through further training.

Seva was happy to share photographs of the products produced, placed on display and sold by participants and graduates of the programme. “It was a fantastic event today, showcasing the finished products of our trainees in tailoring, carpentry and woodworking, as well as handicrafts. Many of the items were sold.” he brimmed.


He goes on to explain: “The aim is for participants to start income generation initiatives once they have completed the course. This is a tangible result of the vocational training programme, those that complete the programme are able to create livelihoods for themselves and support their families and themselves.”

The course is between five to six months long. After completing a two week small business training course, participants are then encouraged to arrange themselves into groups or partnerships and draft a business plan. The Income Generating Co-ordinator reviews the plan and if found to be a viable business, seed capital is provided.

With more than 120 beneficiaries of the programme for this year, Seva’s expansion of the numbers makes for impressive reading: “We started the Carpentry class with 15 students and 12 went through the final exams for the training program, the tailoring class started with 20 students and 14 will fully complete the training. Handicrafts making is a continuing activity for approximately a 100 individuals, majority of them being women.”

Bengehya Muhaya Paterne, himself a Congolese Refugee and member of staff at Dzaleka, gives insight into the potential profitability for the beneficiaries of the programme: “The total amount of money that we made on the 16th of June, by selling the various items the students made came to a total of 57,100.00 kwacha (In access of $ 130 US).”

Seva goes on to explain that like any other economy, the one that exists in Dzaleka Camp is looking to expand beyond its geographical confines, hence creating greater opportunity for industrious and entrepreneurial refugees. “We are trying to identify markets outside of the camp. We are even looking at selling some of the goods overseas. Sales outside of the camp still amount to a small number, but it is expanding and we are moving into other areas.” says Seva.

For Paterne it is not just about the money: “Also, it was okay that we were able to sell and get money; but what was very positive and interesting during our activities was that refugees in Dzaleka and some Malawians in the surrounding villages were able to know what our students are able to do for the community. That has improved the reputation of our school, the reputation of JRS activities at the Adult Vocational Skills Training Department.” The value of this observation cannot be stressed enough! Local communities tend to be very suspicious, at times finding themselves at odds with cross border migrants, more so refugees, especially those in camps, largely dependent on aide. Market days like these provide a platform for refugees to support themselves financially whilst reminding local communities of the value they add to the community at large. This is a near perfect model for the promotion of social cohesion as an added benefit.

Being a displaced person, forced to flee the country of your origins does not have to automatically equate to a life of poverty, desperation and dependency. JRS through its empowerment programmes is proving this to be true once more with their efforts in Dzaleka Camp, Malawi. Legal and geographic limits on the movements of refugees within the camp has also not proven to be an impediment, with innovation and creativity taking products beyond the camp and even abroad. 







Press Contact Information
Gushwell F. Brooks
gushwell.brooks@jrs.net
+27 11 618 3404