Permaculture Thriving at ‘Gardens Gate’!

??????????In 2011, Never Ending Food facilitated a 12-day Permaculture Design Course (PDC) for an organization in Malawi called ‘Children of the Nations’ (COTN).   COTN works internationally in 7 countries to operate homes, schools, farms, skill centers, clinics, and village feeding centers in an effort to provide quality care for orphans and vulnerable children.  When the PDC was conducted in Malawi, we based the training at the residence of a lady named Michelle Clark, who is affiliated with the founders of COTN.  Located just a few kilometers west of Malawi’s capital city of Lilongwe, the participants did all of their practical work at this site and Michelle was one of the participants who received her International Certificate in Permaculture Design.  Since the time of the training, Michelle and her dedicated team have been working to transform her home into a thriving oasis of Permaculture designs which they have now named ‘Gardens Gate’ (“the gate to many gardens”)!

Never Ending Food recently made a return visit to Gardens Gate to see the progress, and they were blown away!  We have put together some pictures to help illustrate the amazing achievements that have been implemented in just 4 short years:

Back Wall--2011

Back Wall–2011

Back Wall--2015

Back Wall–2015







Back Yard--2011

Back Yard–2011

Back Yard--2015

Back Yard–2015

















Front Yard--2011

Front Yard–2011

Front Yard--2015

Front Yard–2015

















Here are a few more design features that have been implemented at Gardens Gate:

Vertical Gardening

Vertical Gardening

Diversified Orchards

Diversified Orchards

Seedling Nursery

Seedling Nursery

Fruit Trees

Fruit Trees

Worm Farming

Worm Farming


Help Luwayo Biswick Pursue His Dream of a Permaculture Diploma!

??????????Never Ending Food’s former Permaculture Manager, Luwayo Biswick, is seeking financial support to achieve his dream of getting an International Diploma of Permaculture Design from Gaia University.  The total cost for this course is $5,500 US dollars and he has set up a fundraising page through the We The Trees organisation.  He has already raised $750 dollars, but there is a long way to go, so any additional assistance would help to move this extraordinary individual, teacher, and community organizer one step closer to his goal!

There is a deadline on this fund-drive, and Luwayo only has about 40 days left to raise the remainder of what is needed.  If you are willing and able to help, please go directly to the We The Trees campaign page and submit a donation…it’s as easy as a clicking a button!

From the We The Trees campaign:


??????????Certified in Permaculture design Luwayo Biswick has 7 years of experience as a Permaculture Facilitator, Consultant and Designer.  He works with local and international organizations, schools, and colleges, hospitals, local villages, communities, churches and individuals on Permaculture and sustainable land designs for food production, holistic health and integrated land management, poverty alleviation, climate change mitigation and rehabilitation techniques for degraded chaotic landscapes to reclaim resilient systems. Produced a variety of permaculture teaching materials including, videos and manuals, in both English and local language (uploaded on You Tube, Face Book and Kusamala website, Conducted (still does) a variety of permaculture programs both on local radio, television and the international radio (BBC) Co-founder of New life Permaculture youth group dealing with recycling of non-bio-degradable materials such as plastic bags, Co-author of 15 simple step by step Permaculture manuals

Where will the money go

Part of the money will be used to establishment a unique permaculture rain fed paradigm in remote areas in the western part of Malawi where no one has demonstrated permaculture before. In this area the soils are completely sandy and holds less moisture even nutrients. The people living in this area don’t own their own lands they depend on rented land to grow their food. The fields are separated from the villages too and they walk long distances to go and farm. Animals are everywhere and they temper with these fields once something is planted. These villages are also sorrounded by big tobacco farms that disseminate messages on and promote monoculture high input ways of farming leading to even more soil degradation, high rate of malnutrition problems, hunger, poverty, climate change and many more problems in this area

??????????Because permaculture is solution based no matter how chaotic the landscape may be, we believe all the world challenges can be solved in a garden so the demonstration to be established will demonstrate, climate smart Permaculture designs, specific to areas like these focusing on microclimate design systems to meet specific needs in specific areas, while also demonstrating, how to maximize production and extend harvests seasons, for the benefit of the people and the environment as a whole. We have demonstrated households and village designs and found it working perfectly but these are the areas where they grow their main rain fed crops. We came to realize too that Malawi as a country is not able to demonstrate such fields, especially fields that are not close or connected to the villages.

We are going to build a composting loo to demonstrate how you can make and use human manure and this manure will be tested in the demonstration to show case how effective human manure can be in our rain fed fields to cut the cost of buying synthetic fertilizers. Besides human manure we are going to demonstrate small animal systems because they are highly prolific and have strong manure.

All the above will be part of my journey and as a portifolio to acquire a diploma of permaculture from Gaia University so part of the money will be used for my diploma payment  .

Biswick’s journey

??????????Born in a family of 12 was not easy for our family to get food to sustain ourselves, I even failed to complete my tertiary education because my parents couldn’t afford to pay for my fees. The days we went to bed with empty stomachs outnumbered the days we could get something to eat, this was a result of poor monoculture high input way of farming we were involved in. I was raised in tobacco farms where my parents worked up to when i reached 17 years of age.

‘I discovered permaculture in early 2009. I had a friend working part time with the Nordins co-founders of Never Ending Food Permaculture Every time I went to visit my friend I was impressed with how things were growing without the use of synthetic agro-chemicals.

I was so inspired by what i saw that i decided to create a garden myself, ‘ I just started doing something without any training, without knowledge or support, or any money. I redesigned my parent’s yard differently to how we used to do.

‘I kept visiting the Nordin’s to see if they could visit my demonstration and they did, they came and offered some advice and resources like books and seeds, especially open pollinated seeds from their house. When I started ??????????diversifying crops I started getting rid of the hunger problems, pest problems, energy and inputs as well as reclaiming the land surrounding my parent’s buildings.

I got certified in permaculture design in 2010, I did my course over a period of  6 months/2days every month. I worked for the permaculture institute to get my certificate because I had no money to pay but instead I had passion and more energy to pay for my course.

Overcoming challenges and stigma

‘People around me thought I was mad, going crazy. Some said I’d never get married. I was gathering mulch- it was the first time in their life they had seen a good man like me gathering organic matter, and wanting to plant beds directly outside my house and saying I want to plant food. They thought the front yard is for sweeping- that’s why they said I was going crazy. At first my parents also thought I was crazy.

I showed remarkable courage in resisting the stigma of my neighbours and family, with encouraging results. My parents are also benefiting from my persistence and vision. Now Since 2009, i have facilitated a lot of Permaculture DSC_0044aworkshops and have also been issuing permaculture design certificates to all sorts of people both local and internationals. I currently work as a lead permaculture trainer, designer and consultant at Malawi’s largest and leading permaculture Institute I have worked as a permaculture manager at never ending food permaculture and also co-facilitated Permaculture design courses with my mentor Mr Kristof Nordin . Have been very active in dissemination of permaculture information on our local radio and television including the BBC radio.”

International Permaculture Day Success!

2015 Open Day 128Never Ending Food in Chitedze, Malawi recently held an Open Day on May 3rd in celebration of International Permaculture Day…And what an incredible day it was!  Several like-minded organizations showed up to lend a hand, set up displays, and assist with giving tours.  In total, we registered over 150 people who came to the Open Day to learn more about Permaculture and to enjoy the festivities!

In honor of the United Nations’ International Year of the Soil, many of the activities had a soil-related theme.  There were demonstrations on how to make compost and liquid manure, worm farming, mulching, the intercropping of legumes, how to avoid soil erosion, 2015 Open Day 092and how to achieve low-to-no-till agriculture.   We also had food displays set up to highlight the hundreds upon hundreds of foods that Malawi could be integrating into nutritious, diversified, and sustainable agricultural systems.  These displays were linked to Malawi’s 6-food group model for the achievement of true food and nutrition security.  Similarly, there were displays on the the use of natural medicines, fuel-efficient stoves, income generating activities, solar power, solar drying, paper briquette making, and much more!

Joining us at the Open Day were organizations such as the Kusamala Institute of Agriculture and Ecology, which is currently Malawi’s foremost Permaculture Training Center.  They set up a stand showcasing their activities, 2015 Open Day 174atrainings, and community outreach.  They even provided open-pollinated ‘heirloom’ seeds for sale!

We were also joined by representatives from Landirani Trust (also known as Africa Vision Malawi), which is a group in Malawi working on sustainable building techniques such as ‘rammed earth’ and sustainable land use design.  Again, they are one of Malawi’s foremost leaders in the area of sustainable building.

2015 Open Day 100aThe Lilongwe City Council also sent Mr. Goodfellow Phiri who is an expert on the use of human urine in agricultural systems.  His efforts in the promotion of urine as a safe and natural substitute for the harmful effects of synthetic fertilizers have gained international recognition and placed him in line to win the Hivos Social Innovation Award!  

Another organization in attendance at the Open Day was ‘Child Legacy International‘.   This organization has set up a local health center in Malawi which runs entirely on renewable energy generated by solar panels and wind turbines.  Since opening their doors in 2012, they have provided healthcare services for over 50,000 people.  Along with this renewable energy focus, they have also been implementing Permaculture designs in an effort to integrate large-scale fish ponds with sustainable and diversified agricultural production.  They are now able to nutritiously feed over 100 people daily from their Permaculture harvests!

2015 Open Day 087aIn order to showcase the concept of ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recyle’, we had a local community group, known as ‘New Life Permaculture’ come to display their wares for sale.  This group takes plastic bags that they collect from the surrounding area, they wash them and dry them, and then knit them into all sorts of creative and functional items, such as hats, mats, bags, purses, and more.  This use of ‘plastic-yarn’ has become known as ‘plarn,’ and ‘plarning’ is increasingly becoming a popular income-generating activity throughout the region from South Africa to Malawi!

2015 Open Day 097aLocal youth also offered nutritious snacks for sale such as baobab juice, green banana sausages, African cakes, and more!  There were games to win packets of open-pollinated seeds, and areas to just sit and relax and enjoy the day.  It was a lot of work, but with so many people who came to help the day flowed smoothly and was a resounding success!

THANK YOU SO MUCH to everyone who helped out, and we hope that the incredible exchange of ideas will continue to germinate and grow into a healthier and more sustainable Malawi!

Permaculture Open Day!

On May 3rd, Never Ending Food will be hosting an open day in celebration of International Permaculture Day.  In recognition of the United Nation’s ‘International Year of the Soil’, many of the activities, demonstrations, and education at the open day will be focused on restoring the health of Malawi’s soils.  There will be demonstrations on compost making, liquid manures, integrated pest management, worm farms, composting toilets, intercropping, and ecological diversification.  People will also be able to learn more about the use of Permaculture guilds, zones, water harvesting, solar drying, and more.  There will be crafts for sale, a playground for kids, tours, hands-on activities, and many opportunities to gain practical advice about the use of Permaculture.  If you are in Malawi on May 3rd, please come and join us!

Permaculture Day Flyer 1


Doctoral Thesis on Permaculture in Malawi!

Abigail Conrad, along with her research assistants Geoffrey Mlongoti and Chisomo Kamchacha (image courtesy of

Abigail Conrad, along with her research assistants Geoffrey Mlongoti and Chisomo Kamchacha
(image courtesy of

In one of the most extensive studies ever done–to date–on the implementation of Permaculture practices in Malawi, researcher Abigail Conrad has just released the results of her Doctoral dissertation entitled, “We Are Farmers: Agriculture, Food Security, and Adaptive Capacity Among Permaculture and Conventional Farmers in Central Malawi”.

Ms. Conrad (now Dr. Conrad) conducted her research in Malawi from September 2011 to July 2012 with the aim of evaluating “the impacts of using permaculture by comparing the agricultural practices and food security of smallholder conventional farmers to farmers who use permaculture.”  The study takes an in-depth look at Malawi’s agricultural history, exposes several drawbacks to current ‘conventional’ agriculture practices, highlights many benefits that local farmers identified through their practice of Permaculture, and gives a realistic analysis of the challenges facing the expanded uptake of Permaculture in Malawi.

Permaculture in Malawi (image courtesy of

Permaculture in Malawi
(image courtesy of

This study is exciting and encouraging in many ways.  First, there has been a glaring lack of academic research surrounding the use of agroecological approaches, such as Permaculture.  One of the reasons for this disparity is highlighted in Conrad’s paper where she writes: “Anthropologists Veteto and Lockyer state that permaculture “has largely been ignored” in academia generally, and in anthropology specifically, because it was developed when discrete disciplinary approaches were well not suited to address the holistic approach of permaculture (2008:49).”  Conrad also states that: “Further, permaculture challenges how governments and NGOs usually teach people to farm. Scientists, governments, and agribusinesses have devalued and eroded indigenous farming knowledge, like that used in permaculture, with the imposition of monocropping and Green Revolution technologies.”

Secondly, Conrad’s findings help to highlight some of the benefits that Permaculture farmers are already experiencing through the implementation of sustainable design systems.  Interestingly, the majority of Conrad’s research took place during a highly economically unstable period in Malawi, and yet Permaculture farmers continued to express gains and benefits.  She writes:  “Further, the permaculture farmers experienced the benefits discussed during an abnormal time of political, economic, and environmental stress and shocks. In 2011-2012, the economy was unstable because of limited foreign currency due to donors withholding aid funds and low global tobacco prices, which led to higher food prices, inflation, imported fuel shortages, decreased fertilizer imports, and sugar shortages (Dionne, Kramon, and Roberts 2013:14; Wroe 2012:139)…These broader factors negatively affected household livelihoods; however, these problems did not prevent permaculture farmers from experiencing benefits.” Again, from the paper: “My primary findings suggest that permaculture farmers experienced multifaceted benefits from implementing permaculture because the farmers used permaculture practices that addressed specific household constraints and expanded their adaptive capacity.”

More information regarding Conrad’s research, methodologies, findings, and recommendations can be found by visiting her website at

To highlight some of the most interesting and promising aspects of Permaculture implementation in Malawi, we will let the study speak for itself.  Here are a few quotes from the paper:

  • “This analysis showed that farmers who used permaculture experienced agricultural, environmental, livelihood, and food and nutrition security benefits in comparison to farmers who solely used conventional agriculture.”
  • “The permaculture farmers reported agricultural benefits that resulted from growing more varieties of crops, intercropping, and using soil and water conservation techniques.”
  • “On average, permaculture farmers grew three times more crops overall, and more crop varieties per food group than conventional farmers.”
  • “In practice, permaculture plots in Malawi are often organic, low-input, and biodiverse, and farmers used techniques like intercropping, planting trees and perennials, and resource recycling.”
  • “There was variation between households, however, permaculture farmers reported a range of agricultural, environmental, livelihood, and food and nutrition security benefits related to the agricultural practice changes they made with permaculture implementation. For example, permaculture farmers had higher agrobiodiversity and lower purchased input requirements on average compared to conventional farmers. In addition, the permaculture farmers all reported improvements in food access since beginning to use permaculture. Permaculture farmers also on average had higher food security and diet diversity scores than conventional farmers.”
  • “The applications, dissemination, and credibility of permaculture have grown in Malawi since the mid-1990s, with organizations using permaculture in all regions of the country. A report from the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, after visiting Malawi in 2013, mentions that “permaculture vegetable and fruit gardens, which are vital for food security and nutrition, could be disseminated more broadly” (De Shutter 2013).”
  • “The permaculture design system includes different techniques than conventional agriculture and has a unique history. The design system focuses on agroecology and systems design, which the social movement, education, and permaculture organizations promote.”
  • “Permaculture farmers’ practices involved more than adopting a new farming practice like using manure, tree planting, or intercropping beans with maize, as some other sustainable agricultural development programs in Malawi focus on. They used the skills-based permaculture system to alter agricultural, resource, and land management practices, in addition to applying a degree of systems thinking by using the design system.”
  • “Conventional farmers had limited ability to apply conventional techniques given their cost and conventional techniques did not improve their farm system in the long term. Permaculture farmers faced the same overall problems as conventional farmers, however, permaculture education and practices expanded farmers‟ skills and available strategies to contend with some constraints and improvise in response to problems. Permaculture farmers also faced social challenges and material, environmental, and knowledge constraints when implementing permaculture. However, farmers were able to use permaculture practices in a way that provided them with agricultural, environmental, and livelihood benefits.”
  • “Learning permaculture gave farmers tools to improve their food access. As permaculture education opened new possibilities for ways to farm, it expanded the food consumption choices available to farmers. Permaculture farmers altered their food practices and cooking to a degree in response to improved food access.”

    A Permaculture Design Course being conducted in Malawi.

    A Permaculture Design Course being conducted in Malawi.

  • “My primary findings suggest that permaculture farmers experienced multifaceted benefits from implementing permaculture because the farmers used permaculture practices that addressed specific household constraints and expanded their adaptive capacity.”
  • “The multi-functional benefits farmers experienced from using permaculture supports the growing call for “triple-win solutions” for agriculture, health, and environmental sustainability by donors and policy-makers that promote low external agriculture (IFPRI 2013a:13).”
  • “Similarly, learning about permaculture has helped to widen the set of knowledge and tools at farmers‟ disposal, and therefore the options available to them, to make changes to their agricultural production and to solve a host of associated problems.”
  • “For example, the permaculture ethic of equitably sharing surplus resources that the permaculture organizations promoted helped to support local community norms of sharing and reciprocity. More generally, as a type of social learning, permaculture education involves farmer-to-farmer learning and promotes local knowledge, which can potentially build community capacity, strengthen relationships of reciprocity, and expand knowledge sharing (Pretty and Smith 2004:637; Altieri and Toledo 2011:588–589).”
  • “The differences between conventional and permaculture farming, and the challenges and benefits of using permaculture have implications for the development sector and the permaculture movement. For the development sector, the research findings point to the potential value of skill-based approaches to agricultural development and food-based approaches to food and nutrition security.”
  • “Malawians’ reliance on maize contributes to food insecurity and malnutrition due to annual maize shortages and inadequate diet diversity (WFP 2012:41; Yeudall et al. 2007; Lin et al. 2007; Dickinson et al. 2009:3).”
  • “Although most Malawian farmers are smallholders, the government, tobacco leaf companies, agribusiness, donors, NGOs, and civil society organizations make up the dominant players, and often beneficiaries, in the agriculture sector according to development studies scholar Chinsinga (2011b:59). These actors primarily promote conventional agriculture technologies, such as hybrid seeds, chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and irrigation (Chinsinga 2011b; Bezner Kerr 2010:104).”
  • “Foreign corporations sell the bulk of agricultural inputs in Malawi, offering farmers‟ limited input options (Chinsinga 2011b:60–61; Holden and Lunduka 2010; Bezner Kerr 2012:224). US-based Pannar (now part of DuPont) and Monsanto and Zimbabwean-based Seed Co. dominate the commercial seed market in Malawi.”
  • “Conventional agriculture development work, such as that supported by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, and Malawi’s Farm Input Subsidy Program, often supports the economic interests of companies and economies in the global North at the expense of environmental sustainability and smallholder farmers‟ economic and food sovereignty (Bezner Kerr 2012; Altieri and Toledo 2011).”
  • “Some farmers can access fertilizer and hybrid maize seed inputs at a highly subsidized rate through FISP, but the program does not provide enough inputs for farmers, is fiscally unsustainable, and emphasizes maize production (MAFS 2007:xvii).  Farmers use these inputs to contend with environmental problems in the present; however, input use is not a sustainable coping strategy and does not address the underlying problems of soil infertility and inadequate rainfall that make them necessary on an ongoing basis. In addition, these inputs are primarily used to increase maize yields, which fails to address the issues of food quality and malnutrition associated with predominately maize-based diets (GFDRR 2011; Oxfam International 2009; Pinstrup-Andersen 2010; Bezner Kerr 2012). Indeed, despite a national maize surplus since 2007/08 after FISP implementation in 2005/06, there was an increase in rural poverty and food insecurity in 2011/12 (IFPRI 2013b:2).”
  • “The utility of permaculture, as a complex design system, is a reminder that development projects can be multifaceted, complex, and flexible, while still being feasible and effective. I argue that along with other structural interventions, permaculture is a strategy that donors and development practitioners should consider incorporating in livelihood, food and nutrition security, and agricultural development programs.”
  • “In addition, permaculture use has the potential to contribute multifaceted impacts of nutrition-sensitive agricultural programs for households.”
  • “Broadly, the findings of this study suggest that smallholder farmers can benefit from using permaculture and the permaculture model for social change and development may have limited impacts.”
  • “Permaculture education improved farmers‟ adaptive and improvisational capacity to respond to problems and shocks within unpredictable and vulnerable conditions by helping to expand the options they had to solve or cushion problems.”
  • “The fact that permaculture is not dependent on access to money created options for the farmers who learned about and used permaculture. Their expanded skill set increased the options available to them for how to farm, and the changes in farming led to increased food consumption choices. These changes affected farmers beyond material benefits, because food insecurity and impoverishment lead to other forms of suffering such as stress, malnutrition, disease, and death in some cases.”
  • “Amayi Sesani aptly summarized her perception of the difference between resource use in conventional agriculture and permaculture. She said, “Ahh, this ongoing [permaculture] farming, and this type of [conventional] farming that we are seeing nowadays, there is indeed a difference. This other [conventional] type needs more energy from a person each and every time, and also it needs more inputs. While the permaculture one does not count whether I am rich or I am poor. Everyone can use it well,” she emphasized.”

The full dissertation in pdf format may be downloaded here:
Conrad – FINAL Dissertation We are farmers

Related research papers include:

Potential of Permaculture, by Abigail Conrad

The Over-Consumption of Maize, by Abigail Conrad

Permaculture Adoption Among Malawian Farmers: A Positive Deviance, by Hope Thornton

Food Insecurity in Malawi: Do Agricultural Input Subsidies Actually Address Hunger?, by Andy Currier