The Wildlife and Environmental Society of Malawi (WESM) was founded in 1947 as the Nyasaland Fauna Preservation Society in Blantyre. In the early days, the aim was to protect wildlife, especially the larger mammals. In the 1950’s and 60’s, WESM was active in proposing and helping to establish Malawi’s reserves and parks such as Lengwe, Majete, Mwabvi and Nyika. It also successfully campaigned for tighter hunting controls.
WESM is non-profit, Non-Governmental Organization legally registered in Malawi and affiliated to the Council for Non-Governmental Organizations in Malawi. WESM is also a member of international conservation organizations such as IUCN, Birdlife International, EEASA etc.
The Society has nine branches in Balaka, Blantyre, Dwangwa, Lilongwe, Monkey Bay, Mzuzu, Mulanje, Nkhata Bay and Zomba. The core work of each branch includes organizing and supporting school-based “Wildlife Clubs”, with the goal of enhancing environmental knowledge and involvement, and currently there are some 1500 Wildlife Clubs across Malawi. Each branch is a self-governing membership organization with the membership including individuals, companies, institutions and wildlife clubs, wholly run and managed at the level of the branch, often by branch members on a voluntary basis. Branches organize regular talks and social events, publish informative newsletters and wildlife books, park guides and extension materials, organize special interest events, schedule wildlife walks during weekends and implements local conservation activities.
In 1992, the Society established a Secretariat with professional staff to relieve volunteer members of their work overload. The Secretariat initially focused on project development and implementation. Projects have included (for example) Community Based Natural Resources Management in areas surrounding protected areas and on customary land, to empower communities to manage their natural resources in a sustainable manner.
- 1947: “Nyasaland Fauna Preservation Society” established (so WESM Malawi’s oldest NGO)
- 1950’s and ‘60’s: Key role in establishing National Parks/Wildlife Reserves and tighter hunting controls.
- 1970’s and ’80’s: From Blantyre base, “Wildlife Clubs” in schools established, then WESM branches in Lilongwe first, then Mzuzu and Zomba
- 1990’s and since: Secretariat established, more branches, many more clubs, many projects
WESM is the leading membership organization promoting, advocating for, and making a visible and measurable difference to the well informed, conservation and sustainable management of wildlife and the natural environment in Malawi.
To inform and support public participation in the wise use of Malawi’s wildlife and natural environment and always speak up for it in national and local development efforts/fora.
- WESM is changing people’s perceptions and attitudes towards the importance of conservation of wildlife and the natural environment
- WESM mobilizes people and resources in order to carry out wildlife conservation activities across the country
- WESM is an effective, efficient, unified and financially secure membership organization (internal objective)
While maintaining the independence and characteristic of individual branches, the role of the Secretariat includes strengthening the branch network and thereby WESM as a whole:
- The WESM Secretariat is now active in branch support and coordination; formerly the Secretariat focused more on individual projects.
- More projects are now managed by branches rather than by the Secretariat; only those projects being implemented at a national level will be led by the Secretariat.
- The Secretariat is leading a process of peer support between branches and is developing a professional skills database of branch members that can be used nationally; in this way WESM is building on the strengths of individual branches.
- The Secretariat is supporting branches to focus on core activities like support of Wildlife Clubs and on programs like Eco-Schools (see Lilongwe branch) that take advantage of WESM’s national coverage.
- 500 individual members, 1500 Wildlife Clubs (mostly school-based), 9 branches
- WESM’s aim: Making a visible and measurable difference to the well informed conservation and sustainable management of wildlife and the natural environment in Malawi
- Objectives: Environmental education, Wildlife Conservation, Well managed, financially secure organisation
Each branch WESM charges membership fees and may also rely on donations from individuals and businesses in Malawi, and from friends of WESM outside Malawi, to carry out activities and small projects, with volunteers doing much of the work.
However, when a branch is carrying out a larger project with a project grant, which is financed by a donor organization, it can hire professional staff. In addition to project activities, each such grant will contribute a little to strengthening WESM core activities including financial support of the Secretariat.