It is early morning, and the sounds of village life have already begun to stir close to Project Luangwa’s craft shop and visitor centre located in the heart of Mfuwe, South Luangwa.
Unlike most places on earth, the sounds of daily life in Mfuwe compete against the wild bush. Being a mere five minutes away from the South Luangwa National Park entrance, it’s as likely to hear a lion’s throaty roar as the children playing in the yard.
Project Luangwa has two main goals, improving education and promoting an equal future for young girls and women. To achieve both, in 2010, Project Luangwa began making washable menstrual hygiene or Ufulu Pads. Poor access to safe hygiene supplies was a significant barrier to girls attending school. It is estimated that when provided with pads, young girls can gain up to 50 school days per year.
Making pads necessitated teaching local men and women how to sew. Armed with these skills, the team started making other items for sale, such as bags, clothing and other textiles. Simultaneously, local artisans also came forward, keen to use the project’s platform to sell their creations.
Today, Project Luangwa has a team of 28 staff and several craftspeople and artisans contributing items for sale. Project Luangwa takes a 20% commission from contributing artisans to put back into the projects, while the remaining 80% goes directly to the artisan. This gives the artisans a sustainable wage and provides critical funding to Project Luangwa’s work within schools and communities.
So, what are the other projects that the shop supports? In addition to improving hygiene for girls, Project Luangwa assists 25 schools in various ways such as building and infrastructure development, safe space meetings, clubs and education programmes using digital technology. It also sponsors hundreds of children through school and tertiary education and works to promote better health while preventing deforestation through its fuel-efficient eco-stove programme.
The Project Luangwa space is set on the main road between Mfuwe Airport and the National Park. It is a must-see for visitors to the valley. It has a bright, airy interior and a café that combines modern design with traditional values. In addition, guests can see the crafts team working hard behind the scenes, either making Ufulu Pads or items for sale in the shop.
Custom items can also be made to order. The shop also sells beautiful local chitenge material, which can be transformed into bags, clothing, or anything else you like.
The café sells a selection of delicious sandwiches, salads, fresh tea and coffee, which can be enjoyed in-house or for takeaway. Early birds can also relax with a hot butter croissant while soaking in the sounds and sights of the Mfuwe life. Its convenient location makes it an easy stopover on the way back from a game drive.
Project Luangwa is supported by several safari operators, who also provide funding to help support local communities. These operators are Flatdogs Camp, Kafunta Safaris, Shenton Safaris, Shawa Luangwa River Camp, Puku Ridge and Njobvu Safaris. All proceeds from purchases go back to support education and girls in South Luangwa.
- The word ‘Ufulu’ means freedom in the Chewa language, as our Ufulu Pads give women and girls the freedom to attend school and control their futures.
- Proceeds from the shop and café go back into the projects.
- Since 2010, Project Luangwa has built 14 schools and sponsored nearly 500 children throughout secondary school and about 100 to university or college.
- In 2021, Project Luangwa built 2,000 eco-stoves and planted 500 trees for local households.
- Project Luangwa directly supports 28 staff and several local artisans and craftspeople.
Find Project Luangwa
Project Luangwa, The Cropping, Mfuwe – Situated on the tar road, just next to the filling station junction.
Images courtesy of Project Luangwa