Mbando Village, Malawi, November 2022 - A rice mill whirs and spits out polished, full-grain rice - and an enthusiastic crowd has gathered in Mbando village to celebrate it.
“My area is privileged to have such an investment.”
he rice mill project was the brainchild of Ms. Ruth Mumba, director of Abundance Worldwide, through collaborations with women in the local community in November 2019.The mill, it was decided, would be the most sustainable and effective solution to problems
faced by the women and wider community.
why the Rice Mill?
Over 100 households in Mbando village rely on fishing or farming, specifically rice farming, as a means of subsistence. It is no surprise, then, that rice milling, the production of rice from paddy, plays a vital role in the local economy. In short, the rice mill removes the husk layer from harvested paddy, producing the edible, white form of rice that we are familiar with.
By constructing the mill, the local community saves a significant amount of time and money spent travelling and purchasing milled rice in a town 10 km away. Positive externalities like this benefit the entire village as well as the women’s group running the milling
business, Talandira Co-operative.
“All along and especially when the other mill in this area breaks down, we have been travelling long distances to have our rice milled. With the coming of this brand-new rice mill, our problems have been addressed.”
The rice mill is a fantastic economic opportunity for the members of Talandira, too. Rice polished in the mill fetches drastically higher prices - in both the local market and within Mbando village - than unprocessed rice.
The rice mill project was primarily funded by a $8,168.33 grant from WorldConnect, an NGO focused on “self-sustaining development”.
Funding & Revenue Distribution
The revenue generated from sales firstly goes towards the running costs of the mill, ensuring the venture is a self-sustaining one. Any remaining profits will flow into a co-operative fund, which is available for members to borrow from, empowering them to start a business and be financially independent. Twice a year, members review the fund and allot resources to similar community projects. Previous examples include a bicycle ambulance, an E-learning Centre and Abundance's latest venture, a biogas cooker.
“With this assistance, we are able to increase our household income since we are accessing the rice processing service easily and cheaply.”
The realization of the rice mill wasn’t all smooth sailing, however. Abundance and Talandira faced a number of roadblocks along the way, including a devastating Cyclone in 2020 which damaged the building earmarked to house the mill upon completion. It was then discovered that the building was lacking in structural stability, which prompted a thorough rethink through the project.
"Cyclone Eloise caused the roof of the building to be blown away. We then got an expert to inspect the building and he informed us that the building was unsafe for our use and had to be demolished and rebuilt with additional safety and structural support to withstand strong winds in the area."
The women, however, were highly resilient in the face of these delays and setbacks. After a successful crowdfunding campaign through Global Giving, the structure was redesigned and rebuilt in 2022 as the functional building that stands there today.
Abundance Worldwide and the people of Mbando Village are keen to constantly improve projects like these to keep them practical, efficient and sustainable. A number of next steps were suggested for the rice mill co-operative, including: