A Very Special Visit!

John Vidal (left), Kristof Nordin (right)

John Vidal (left), Kristof Nordin (right)

This past week, Never Ending Food was honored to host a visit from John Vidal, author and Environmental Editor for the Pulitzer prize-winning Guardian Newspaper in the UK.  Mr. Vidal joined the newspaper in 1995, and has authored numerous articles on global environmental and agricultural issues over the years.  He is also the author of ‘McLibel: Burger Culture on Trial‘, where Mr. Vidal spent two and a half years covering one of Britain’s longest-running trials between McDonald’s fast food chain against 5 members of London Greenpeace.

Peter Kaniye, holding a 20 kg local yam dug out of the ground in the midst of Malawi's 'hungry season'.

Peter Kaniye, holding a 20 kg local yam dug out of the ground in the midst of Malawi’s ‘hungry season’.

Mr. Vidal was in Malawi covering the issues surrounding the nation’s current challenges of drought, food insecurity, and malnutrition.  During his visit to Never Ending Food, we were able to demonstrate that many locally-available and low-cost solutions exist for bringing an end to chronic ‘hungry seasons’, famine, nutritional ‘stunting’, and even susceptibility to climate change.  Never Ending Food grows nearly 200 different foods on a year-round, seasonal, and perennial basis. On the day of Mr. Vidal’s visit, Never Ending Food‘s Permaculture Manager, Peter Kaniye, dug up this local yam (pictured) as an example of foods that can be available to all Malawian farmers who choose to diversify their nutritional options.  This yam weighed in at 21.8 kgs and was dug out of the ground just as people are beginning to complain about hunger, and as we are seeing countries such as the United States spending millions of dollars on ‘humanitarian food aid’.  We sincerely hope that Mr. Vidal’s article will highlight some of these natural solutions!  We will keep you posted.

Bill Mollison’s Legacy Lives On!

PDC Graduation

PDC Graduation

Malawi just graduated another class of certified Permaculture Designers.  This year’s PDC was held at Kusamala Institute of Agriculture and Ecology, and was comprised of 7 participants from Malawi and international.  This group represented people who are working with food security, nutrition, income generation, wildlife conservation, organic agriculture, and ecotourism.  We had participants who are working in Malawi in Kasungu national park, the Wildlife and Environmental Society of Malawi, Dzaleka refugee camp, and local health projects, along with representatives of eco-tourism from the Gambia and an agroecologist from Zimbabwe.

The participants completed 72 hours of studies in the core curriculum of the internationally recognized Permaculture

Design Presentations

Design Presentations

Design Course, which covers such issues as soil and water health, zones, guilds, animal management, building communities, architecture, energy, waste management, economic systems, observation, mapping, and design.  The participants also had a chance to take field visits to Garden’s Gate and Never Ending Food.

It was a fitting tribute to certify this latest group of Designers on the very day that Bill Mollison, Father of Permaculture, passed away.  This visionary leader’s dream of creating a sustainable and equitable world will continue to flourish as thousands upon thousands of people throughout the world each year turn to the principles of Permaculture to guide households, businesses, farms, and communities to achieve this dream.

Field Visit to Garden's Gate

Field Visit to Garden’s Gate

Field Visit to Never Ending Food

Field Visit to Never Ending Food

The World has Lost a Great Visionary

thIt is with heavy heart that we have learned of the passing of Bill Mollison, often referred to as the ‘Father of Permaculture’.  From Wikipedia…”Bruce Charles “Bill” Mollison (4 May 1928 – 24 September 2016) was an Australian researcher, author, scientist, teacher, and biologist. Considered to be the “father of Permaculture”…Permaculture is an integrated system of design which Mollison co-developed with David Holmgren, and it encompasses not only agriculture, horticulture, architecture, and ecology, but also economic systems, land access strategies, and legal systems for businesses and communities. In 1978, Mollison collaborated with Holmgren and they wrote a book called Permaculture One.  Mollison founded The Permaculture Institute in Tasmania, and created a training system to train others under the umbrella of Permaculture.  Mollison’s system of train the trainer has taught thousands of people how to grow food and be sustainable using the Permaculture method.”

Bill would have been the first to admit that death is as essential to the cycles of nature as that of birth.  In tribute to this great man’s legacy, we share the lyrics of Poi Dog Pondering’s song, “Bury Me Deep“:

A lifetime of accomplishments of which the dirt knows none,
only in death can one truly return
Return the carrots, the apples and potatoes,
The chickens, the cows, the fish and tomatoes.
In one glorious swoop, let the deed be done
and bury me deep so that I can be one…
And all around my muscle and all around my bone,
don’t incinerate me or seal me from
the dirt which bore me, the bed that which from
the rain falls upon and the fruit comes from
For the dirt is a blanket, no fiery tomb,
No punishment, reward, or pearly white room
And you who say that in death we will pay,
The dead they can’t hear a word that you say
Your words are not kind, sober or giving,
they only put fear in the hearts of the living
So put away your tongues and roll up your sleeves,
and pick up your shovel and bury me deep.

 

Sustainable Nutrition Manual (second edition, June 2016)

announcement SNM2 2016.06The second edition of the Sustainable Nutrition Manual was endorsed by Malawi’s Agriculture Technology Clearing Committee (ATCC) and can now be downloaded at:

Link to Sustainable Nutrition Manual (second edition) 2016 June

You can also download the presentation I gave to the ATCC through the link. After the presentation I took part in the discussion until a decision was made. It was a very positive discussion around permaculture as a design tool that puts multiple sustainable technologies together into a system, which is often the missing piece in Malawi.

There is only large version available at the moment (ideal for printing). We are working on smaller online versions with active document links, larger posters and eventually a facilitator’s manuals, handouts, flyers and brochures that were part of the first version.

Enjoy using it – share your experiences back with us as guided in the manual to: the Ministry of Agriculture, the funders (WFP), the author (Stacia) and/or on the social media sites highlighted in the manual

Link to the permanent page for the Sustainable Nutrition Manual

Sustainable Charcoal Production

Foundation Dig May 2016 025Charcoal production in Malawi has gotten a very bad reputation.  This is primarily due the deforestation which has unfortunately become linked to unsustainable practices of local charcoal makers.  This deforestation has led to drastic measures such as having to dispatch the Malawian Defense Force (MDF) to discourage illegal cutting in protected areas, and even the arrests and abuse of people in communities located near these protected areas.

What many people seem to forget is that trees are a renewable resource.  If we protect, conserve, and replenish our supply of trees the whole country could be covered in resources which provide firewood, building materials, fruits, medicines, fiber, oils, nuts, beauty, habitat, and so much more…including surplus for sustainable charcoal production.  In general, the burning of charcoal wastes less energy than burning wood directly.  These energy savings are increased even more when the charcoal is burned in a fuel-efficient stove.

When Never Ending Food moved into its current location in 2003, we found that all of the trees had been cut down for the production of maize.  The area around the house was swept bare and all vegetation had been removed.  The soil was compacted, infertile, and unproductive.  Using Permaculture practices, we began the process of healing the land, feeding the soil, and bringing back the trees.  Over the years, we have reached the point where just by trimming back the trees to allow the sunlight to still shine through in various areas, we now have such a surplus of firewood that we keep enough for our own needs and share the surplus (the 3rd ethic of Permaculture) with about 6-7 families in our area.

2003

2003

2011

2011

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This year, we are in the process of building an outdoor classroom for the teaching of Permaculture principles.  In order to dig the foundation for this classroom, we needed to cut back a few trees.  We wanted to use these trees to their fullest potential, so we decided to try our hand at making charcoal.  We began by finding a few local community members who had the skills necessary to assemble a proper charcoal kiln.

The first step involved stacking the wood into a pile which would allow for the proper flow of air during the long and slow burning process:

Trimming Trees

Trimming Trees

Building the pile

Building the pile

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next, the pile was covered with grass and dirt to provide fuel for the fire as well as helping to minimize the airflow:

Adding grass and dirt

Adding grass and dirt

Adding grass and dirt

Adding grass and dirt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once the pile was properly assembled, it was set on fire and allowed to burn slowly for almost one week:

Burning the pile

Burning the pile

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the pile burned, the progress was occasionally checked and the finished charcoal from the outside edges was harvested:

Harvesting

Harvesting

Finished Product

Finished Product

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the end, the entire pile was harvested and we ended up with about 8 large bags of charcoal from about 3 trees that were cut for use in the pile.  We paid the charcoal makers 25,000 kwacha to make and supervise the production process and ended up with about 80,000 kwacha of charcoal.  This process convinced us that charcoal is not the problem in Malawi, it can be part of the solution.  As people care for the earth and protect its abundance, we quickly move into production systems which yield surplus benefits.