Benga is located in Nkhotakota District and situated at 10 km from Lake Malawi to the east and 30 km to the Ntchisi Forest Reserve to the west. It is 60 km south of Nkhotakota Township and 50 km north of Salima Township. It is situated halfway on the tar road connecting both towns. Though the area is near Lake Malawi and Chilwa Lagoon, people are mainly agriculturalists (85%). The literacy rate stands at 70%, slightly lower than the country’s average at 74%. Around 76% of the population are Christians. Catholics stand at 12%.
The catchment area include parts of Nkhotakota District and parts of Salima District, also pockets of Dowa and Ntchisi Districts. The main settlements in the area are Thavite, Benga and Mthasewe along the Salima-Nkhotakota Road. Mwansambo, Mlambe and Chipati along the Chilwa Lagoon and Ntichsi Forest Reserve. The estimated population of the area is 120,000 people.
Since late 2009, personnel from the Diocese of Lodwar, who are also members of the Missionary Community of Saint Paul the Apostle travelled to Malawi in order to find a place where to start a new parish. Some of the places visited were the Diocese of Lilongwe, Zomba, Blantyre and Chikwawa. After getting to know the different dioceses and following exhaustive consultation, it was decided in 2011 that a mission station would be set up within the Archdiocese of Lilongwe in the area of Benga, Nkhotakota District.
The first steps were made and a general study of the area took place. The study revealed the extreme poverty of the area. 500 people were interviewed, 50% women and 50% men. 85% of the population in the area live of agriculture. 56% of the population completed primary studies and 20% completed secondary studies. A balanced diet and good education were two of the main key points to attain development in the future.
Present Situation and Plan
During the first year of activity, pastoral work was rationalised according to the size of the new created parish. The parish has four centres each one with a catechist and with a number of churches ascribed to it. The parish has in total 46 churches of different sizes and in January 2014 two more from the former parish of Nkhotakota joined Benga Parish. The leaders of the different centres elected the Parish Council and the Finance Council for the next four years.
As part of the establishment of the new parish and in order to strengthen the four centres and set the way forward, two trainings were planned during 2013 and 2014. The first training was introducing the Lumko Method in the Small Christian Communities since it offers a transforming vision of a church community based on Vatican II. The second training was based on strengthening the leadership among themselves and preparing people for the election of leaders in all the churches of the parish.
During these two years of existence of Benga Parish other pastoral activities a part of the trainings have been taken place, we will remark the following: 687 Baptisms were done both adult and children and 156 Marriages were celebrated. The parish is one of the four parishes of the Archdiocese participating in the national pilot programme for the new syllabus for training of catechumens.
We have also managed to implement some development initiatives:
Educational: We have set two nursery schools in Benga and Mlambe where 150 children between 3 and 6 years are receiving education and a balanced diet. We are reinforcing primary education in the area with the improvement of the equipment of the infrastructure and equipment of the schools.
Food security and agriculture: Several programs have been put in place to improve the income of the families, with the distribution of subsidised fertilisers and seeds, the establishment of irrigation projects, marketing of the products or the stating of new income generating activities like fish farms.
The objectives of the Mission will be the following:
- To continue providing pastoral attention to the inhabitants of Benga and consolidating the growth of the parish.
- To strengthen education at all levels as key factor for development.
- To continue facilitating the development of income-generating activities that would improve the living standards of the people of the area.