Earthship Malawi - Kapita Community Centre

By Shanil Samarakoon

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Here's some Background

Back in 2010, Empower, the grassroots development organisation that I lead, first started working with communities in Malawi to enable self-reliance. Our base was Kapita, a poor isolated region, with 38 villages and 5,000 people. When we arrived, what we found was extraordinary. The people of the region contended with so many daily challenges - a lack of basics like access to electricity and clean drinking water, healthcare and financial services. People in Kapita were primarily subsistence farmers and live on less than $0.80/day. No... that was not a typo!

They did though have aspirations and a great deal of existing capacity and talent to make things happen! Their vision is to be a thriving regional hub for development, to be free of dependence on aid. And we wanted to help to make this happen.

No Place to Coordinate Development

One of the biggest challenges facing the region is its distance from major towns. People live across 38 villages, and are atleast 60kms away from key services such as healthcare and banking. Furthermore, the active development committees formed over the years have no proper space to meet and organise themselves. They are often restricted to small sheds as featured below and are at the mercy of the elements.

Through a long discussion with the community, it became abundantly clear that what would dramatically change this picture was a centralised community centre in which all essential community services could be housed in.

Stage 1 - Build a basic community centre

In October 2013, over 80 volunteers from around the world trekked to Malawi to help the people of Kapita community build an Earthship community centre (scroll down the bottom to read more about what an Earthship is and why we chose them).

Rather than describe what happened, here’s a video that tells the story:

2 out of a total of 8 rooms were built during this initial build. Zatuba Community Bank has already started using the one of the rooms to serve hundreds of customers in the region as of January 2014. Clients are singing the praises of the more central location.

Stage 2 - The final 6 rooms (out of 8)

The plan from the beginning was to demonstrate the building of an earthship and to consequrntly allow a localteam to complete the community centre. The people of Kapita have already expressed big plans for the remaining 6 rooms that they aim to complete through an action plan from June-Dec 2014.

  1. A Seed Bank
  2. A Government-run Clinic
  3. A Library
  4. A Kindergarten
  5. A Community Radio Station
  6. A Meeting Hall

Use of Funds

In 2014, we want to complete the dream and build the last 6 rooms of the Earthship and we want you to be part of it.

We’ve calculated that we’ll need $17,500 to purchase and transport the raw materials for the build that cannot be sourced locally or obtained pro-bono. This is what we need to make the remaining 6 rooms happen and what your funds will be spent on:

  • Cement
  • Rebar and Wire
  • Gravel
  • Solar Gear
  • Water Tanks and piping
  • Transport


To make it even more enticing to contribute, we’re offering some amazing perks:

Donate $50 and receive an eco-card and a sweet discount on solar gear

Donate $100 and receive one of the awesome t-shirts featured below

Donate $200 and you will be featured in the "Verandah of Fame"

Donate $500 and you will be featured as a key contributor, have a tree in your name and receive a local handicraft.

Donate $1000 and will receive have one of the 8 rooms named after you AND score a huge discount on solar goods

Why Earthships?

Pioneered by Michael Reynolds, Earthships are self-sustaining eco structures made out of rammed earth and recycled materials. Earthships are also designed for easy replication, allowing local communities to take the lead after demonstration. Here are some of the key features of Kapita Community Centre.

  • Rammed Earth construction more in line with traditional Adobe building techniques.
  • Rammed Earth and recycled tires provide thermal mass for temperature regulation.
  • Skylights and Recycled Bottle walls provide daylight to reduce energy consumption for lighting.
  • Solar Power for all rooms (A/C and D/C)
  • Rainwater Harvesting into 5 x 2,500ltr tanks = Water capacity of 12,500 litres.
  • Composting toilets for sustainable waste management.
  • Greywater and Blackwater Systems for self-contained waste management.
  • Organic food garden - fruits, vegetables and herbs fed by the waste management system.

Who is Empower?

Empower , a grassroot development organisation has been working with the people of Kapita to support their aspirations for a better life since 2010. We support local action plans for development through affordable access to capital, technology and training. We are committed towards supporting local aspirations for development by building local capacity.

Here is a virtual projection of what the centre will look like.

This campaign is to raise funds to complete the remaining 6 rooms...

Meet The Kapita Development Committee- the local committe that will oversee the completion of the project

On behalf of the people of Kapita ....

Yewo Chomeni! (Thank you very much!)

Campaign Supporters

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Team Members

Shanil Samarakoon

Deborah Binder

Jeane Nardone