The biggest problem that Malawians are facing is the lack of food security. With an overdependence on maize — a non-native crop in Malawi — and with frequent floods and droughts, families often cannot grow enough food to feed themselves. Through demonstration and training we help people to, for example, diversify the crops they grow, improve the soil in a natural way and to move their gardens closer to their homes. We guide people to become more self-sufficient in areas such as food, energy, shelter and other material and non-material needs. All this in an ecological and sustainable way, which means that we will take care for creation and not exploiting it. At the same time we encourage people to share fairly with others when they have more than enough.
In Malawi the majority (85%) of the people depend on smallholder agriculture to meet their needs for living. This means that if they do not harvest … they do not eat. In the past the nature of Malawi was full of diversity. People had access to hundreds of different plants and animals that were found in the forests, lakes and fields around them. Many of the older people but even people from as young as 40 are able to tell you about this. When the ‘conventional’ farming took over it discouraged the use of this natural resources and as a result this diversity was exchanged for just a handful of crops. Now many natural areas have been and are still being cleared for planting crops such as maize. This has led to many problems such as malnutrition, but also annual food shortages caused by crop failure among others.
In the area of food production, we encourage the villagers to cultivate high-yield, no-cost home agro-ecology gardens at their homes. This means that you grow crops in a way that has the diversity, stability and resilience of a natural ecosystem. We work with creation, instead of against it. We assist people in designing landscapes with the aim that they can meet as many needs as possible.
We teach people to design a garden or food forest which consists of all kinds, mainly perennial vegetation with different growth habit. Among the vegetation you will find not only well-known or almost forgotten fruit trees and shrubs, vegetables and herbs for consumption, but also plants used for pest control, fertilization or timber for example. Everything in the design has several functions that complement each other, including animals and insects like in a natural ecosystem. At the same time the natural laws and elements such as sun, wind and rain are used in the most efficient way. As many closed cycles are created and also much attention is given to the quality of the soil, biodiversity and seed propagation.
This apparent chaos of agriculture in that respect is very different than the ‘conventional’ farming. This regenerative and self-sustaining approach to agriculture is also called permaculture and natural farming. The ‘conventional’ way of farming fails regularly and in combination with the expensive inputs (fertilizer and seed purchase) its farmers remain economically dependent and as a result they find themselves in a continuous cycle of debt. In addition this form of agriculture will also damage the soil and ecosystems, which are important for a sustainable future. On the other hand are the construction and maintenance costs of this natural way of farming low because as many as possible natural input is being used. This also means that it can be realized by everyone, rich and poor.
By mimicking natural ecosystems you also fight other challenges such as drought. The diversity of crops also prevents malnutrition (1/3 of the population of Malawi suffers from malnutrition) and a possible crop failure of one or a number of crops has no significant impact anymore. We believe that this approach to agriculture can prevent food shortages and at the same time protect the landscapes of the local communities
The vast majority of people are using wood or charcoal for cooking. Women and children often walk several hours each day to collect wood and deforestation is a major problem. By inhaling smoke indoors for cooking eventually many people get health problems which can cause a possible early death.
Mainly we focus in the field of energy by promoting efficient cooking appliances that dramatically reduce the use of wood and on the other hand also reduce smoke inhalation by taking the smoke outside. At the same time we encourage wood production so that deforestation will stop.
In Malawi a lot of the population lives in mud houses with roofs of plastic and grass. These houses are often not waterproof and with a lot of rainfall it causes health problems because of people getting wet and it also creates the risk of houses collapsing. Also a lot of people live in houses made of corrugated roofs and cement. This roofs take care of the problem of leaking, but it creates very hot houses caused by the hot sun on the roof. The thin corrugated roof sheets have at the same time usually a lifespan of no more than 10-15 years. And cement is very expensive for the people and besides it is not environmentally friendly.
In the area of housing we promote houses made of natural materials that are ecological friendly and sustainable by using existing ecological building techniques, like for example ‘rammed earth’ walls and thatched houses . We design practical and comfortable houses by applying techniques that make houses as comfortable and functional as possible in a hot and dry climate. Even our own buildings are constructed in this way.
We want to guide and support people to become more self-sufficient in these areas by:
- Demonstration and Inspiration
- Providing training
- Mentoring and coaching
Demonstration and Inspiration
We invest in examples to convince and encourage people. If someone is not enthusiastic himself, it has no use to invest. To inspire people and make them enthusiastic we demonstrate everything on site. In this way we can show what it looks like and what is possible. In particular we are investing in the youth at the various schools in providing both theoretical and practical education. We also organize excursions and field trips to our own demonstration site. In combination with the presence of a natural playground and regular organisation of sports activities we can bring them at an early stage playfully in contact with our examples to self-sufficiency.
When people are enthusiastic we offer practical and theoretical training courses at our training center to impart the necessary knowledge. In addition we offer also regular training courses on other subjects.
Mentoring and coaching
After finishing the training to become more self-sufficient we offer people unlimited support and coaching through advice and the provision of information.