Permaculture Design Course Visit!

PDC Visit Sept 2017 003aThe Kusamala Institute of Agriculture and Ecology is currently running a 2-week Permaculture Design Course (PDC).  As part of this course, the participants took a field visit to Never Ending Food where they could see, first-hand, many of the Permaculture principles that they are learning about.  Never Ending Food‘s Permaculture Manager, Peter Kaniye, and our new intern, Jacob Jumpha, led the tour and were able to demonstrate such Permaculture ideas as: guilds, zones, soil restoration, water harvesting, renewable energies, eco-sanitation, vermiculture, fish farming, beekeeping, sustainable architecture, food preservation, animal management, seed saving, and highly-nutritious diversified cropping systems.

PDC Visit Sept 2017 012aPermaculture Design begins with the process of observation and the mapping of existing resources.  It then moves on to the creation of a design which takes into account using these existing resources to their fullest potential and striving to meet the needs of the specific site.  These needs may vary depending on whether the design is being created for a home, school, business, or large-scale farm.  During their PDC, the participants are all working on creating designs for various sites throughout Malawi.  We hope that many of the ideas that they learned at Never Ending Food will be able to be incorporated into these plans for a sustainable future.  All the best!

Food, the Source of Nutrition!

Kumbali FoodNever Ending Food recently had an article published in the peer-reviewed ‘World Nutrition Journal‘.  The article, entitled ‘Food, the Source Nutrition‘, takes a comparative look at the nutritional differences between conventional monocropped agriculture and diverse polycultural systems (such as those used in Permaculture Design and Agroecology).  The following is an excerpt from the article:

“Agricultural diversification is one of the best ways to increase yields, while simultaneously achieving nutrition security, which is defined as “secure access to an appropriately nutritious diet (i.e., protein, carbohydrate, fat, vitamins, minerals, and water) coupled with a sanitary environment and adequate health services and care, in order to ensure a healthy and active life for all household members”.   Malawi’s over-reliance on the ‘green revolution’ monocropping of maize helps to highlight the incredible short-sightedness of such approaches. In 2005, the country launched the Farm Input Subsidy Programme, which was designed to heavily subsidize the costs of synthetic fertilizers and hybridized maize seed. The costs associated with this program have been in the hundreds of millions of US dollars and often account for more than 50% of the nation’s entire annual agricultural budget.”

If you are interested in learning more about truly sustainable solutions, we would encourage you to take the time to read the article in its entirety.

Wambali Mkandawire Visits Never Ending Food

Wambali Mkandawire 021bNever Ending Food was honored to host a visit from one of Malawi’s most influential musicians.  Wambali Mkandawire and his family came to learn more about Permaculture practices and what they can do to increase the sustainability of their own farm.  Wambali has had a long history of music, politics, and community development in Malawi.  According to Wikipedia: “Wambali’s music fusion style has been celebrated as a pioneering sound in Malawian Jazz music…Together with his wife, they have started a publishing company, “Kajimete Arts Publishing,” to help promote Malawian talent.”  We had a great visit and wish them all the best in their continued efforts to create a better Malawi!

70 Students Visit from Local International School

BMIS Visit 038aThis past week Never Ending Food was honored to host 70 year-4 students from Bishop Mackenzie International School (BMIS) in Lilongwe.  Three separate classes came on three separate days to help make the visits a bit more manageable.  The students were all doing a unit on how our choices affect the sustainability of the earth’s resources. This theme basically defines what Permaculture is all about.  Every choice in Permaculture design takes into consideration the sustainability of the earth’s resources.  When we keep the three main Permaculture ethics in mind (Earth Care, People Care, and Fair Share), these choices become self-evident.  It was really fun to host students who are so full of energy, curiosity, questions, and excitement!  It seems that the highlight of the tour for many of the stu04.2013 Harvest 047adents was our Golden Orb spiders, which are an integral part of our Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategies.  These harmless spiders come out right at the end of the rainy season, when there is generally an increase in malaria-causing mosquitoes. They spin their webs throughout the branches of our trees and eat the majority of our mosquitoes and other insects, therefore helping to ensure the health of our plants as well as our bodies.

BMIS Visit 017aIn terms of choices that we can all be making, we discussed the difference between a ‘resource’ and a ‘waste’.  When everything is put to use, everything becomes a ‘resource’.  Permaculture aims at achieving zero-waste and views ‘waste’ as an unused resource.  With this in mind we talked about turning human ‘waste’ into a ‘resource’ through the use of composting toilets; turning kitchen ‘waste’ into a ‘resource’ through worm-farming; and turning plastic ‘waste’ into a ‘resource’ through recycling them into useful products (such as bags, mats, planters, and even hats or shoes).

BMIS Visit 045aWe looked at the ‘choices’ we are making in Malawi when it comes to agriculture and diets (which currently over-relies on the use of maize), and discussed with the students about the hundreds of Malawian foods that could be used to achieve highly-nutritious and year-round access to food and nutrition security.  Good nutrition relies on growing and eating a diversity of foods, but this cannot happen until we make sustainable choices about the foods that we are growing and eating.  Diversifying agriculture can help to bring an end to Malawi’s ‘hungry seasons’ as well as reducing the unacceptable levels of malnutrition that we find throughout the country.

BMIS Visit 034aWe also looked at the types of ‘choices’ that we can be making when we design our homes, schools, offices, and other structures.  The bricks and cement that are currently used to build rain water gutters along buildings could, instead, be used to build rain water harvesting tanks.  Our buildings can also be built using sustainable materials to ensure the permanency of the earth’s resources.  We were able to show the students our new classroom that is being built using rammed-earth, instead of burned bricks.

BMIS Visit 007aWe had a great time introducing all of these students to sustainable life-choices, and we hope that some of these messages will the plant seeds of sustainability which will germinate throughout the rest of their lives.  A big thanks to Bishop Mackenzie International School for arranging these visits, and you are all welcome back any time!

15 Local Chiefs Visit Never Ending Food!

Peter Kaniye showing the group a picture of what Never Ending Food looked like when it began.

Peter Kaniye showing the group a picture of what Never Ending Food looked like when it began.

On Friday, May 5th, a group of 21 men and women, including Group Village Headman Kuchombo and 15 Chiefs who represent Lilongwe West under Traditional Authority Kalolo, paid a visit to Never Ending Food to learn more about how Permaculture can help provide sustainable solutions for their communities.  Along with the chiefs, this group included teachers and community leaders from various villages.

A couple weeks ago, Never Ending Food was approached by Group Village Headman Kuchombo himself to arrange this visit.  This fact alone is such an incredibly positive step forward where many people have become overly-dependent on handouts and have developed a reliance on donor agencies to do things ‘for’ their communities, rather than taking the initiative to be proactive within their own community development.  GVH Kuchombo’s initiative to provide learning solution-based learning opportunities for the villages which he represents should be highly commended.  During the visit, GVH Kuchombo gave an inspiring speech to the entire group about taking Permaculture ideas back to their communities and implementing them within their various villages to improve health, ensure year-round food security, and help reduce poverty.

Eferal Kathumba teaching about nutrition!

Eferal Kathumba teaching about nutrition!

Our Permaculture Manager, Peter Kaniye, did the majority of the teaching in the local language, Chichewa, to ensure that the messages were being fully appreciated and that the group felt comfortable asking all of their questions.  One of our local community members, Eferal Kathumba, also helped to prepare and teach about the diversity and importance of the nutritious snack that they ate (juice made from hibiscus, lemons, and mint (all from Never Ending Food’s gardens), bananas, African Horned cucumbers, popcorn, and locally-made cakes).

The participants were taught about feeding the soil through the integration of nitrogen-fixers, worm-farming, composting toilets, liquid manure, and heap composts.  We had lessons on Malawi’s six food groups to show the importance of nutritional diversity to help bring an end to Malawi’s unacceptable rates of malnutrition.  Peter was able to show technologies for solar drying, paper-briquette making (used similar to charcoal), the use of fuel-efficient stoves, and hand-pressed oil making.  There was a nice display of recently harvested crops, including various beans, pumpkins, maize, air potatoes, local yams, and many other foods of Malawi.  The group was exposed to methods of organic and diversified crop production (using locally-available and open-pollinated seeds), sustainable soil management, water harvesting, and animal husbandry (including fish farming, rabbit rearing, and bee keeping).  They even got a preview of the new sustainable classroom that we’ve been building using rammed-earth and earth-bag techniques (this classroom should be able to accommodate groups of 50-60 people when completed, and is being built without the need for burning bricks—something which has put a great deal of pressure on Malawi’s forests).

Everybody really seemed to appreciate the visit and left inspired and motivated.  Let’s hope this translates into action!

Group Village Headman Kuchombo (left) encouraging chiefs and community leaders to implement Permaculture!

Group Village Headman Kuchombo (left) encouraging chiefs and community leaders to implement Permaculture!

A Preview of our Earth-bag, Rammed-earth Classroom under Construction!

A Preview of our Earth-bag, Rammed-earth Classroom under Construction!

Diversified Crop Production

Diversified Crop Production

Fish Pond Demonstration

Fish Pond Demonstration

A Display of Solar Drying, Oil Pressing, Fuel-Efficient Stoves, Paper Briquettes, and Seasonal Harvests!

A Display of Solar Drying, Oil Pressing, Fuel-Efficient Stoves, Paper Briquettes, and Seasonal Harvests!