A Visit from Food Tank!

Food Tank Visit 082a

Kristof, Danielle, and Stacia

This week Never Ending Food was honored to host Danielle Nierenberg from Food Tank in the United States.  Food Tank is a non-profit organization, which works to “offer solutions and environmentally sustainable ways of alleviating hunger, obesity, and poverty by creating a network of connections and information for all of us to consume and share. Food Tank is for farmers and producers, policy makers and government leaders, researchers and scientists, academics and journalists, and the funding and donor communities to collaborate on providing sustainable solutions for our most pressing environmental and social problems…Food Tank is focused on building a global community for safe, healthy, nourished eaters. We spotlight environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable ways of alleviating hunger, obesity, and poverty and create networks of people, organizations, and content to push for food system change.”

Food Tank Visit 003

Danielle getting a tour from Kusala

During Danielle’s visit, we were able to demonstrate some of the ways in which Never Ending Food has been applying Permaculture Designs towards sustainable development in Malawi.  We discussed many of the highly-nutritious, resilient, and locally available natural resources that are currently being ignored primarily due to a corporate push to monocrop or genetically engineer only a handful of commercial crops. Danielle was able to meet with Never Ending Food’s interns and see how our grassroots community outreach is being conducted.  We took a site visit to Maulana Village, home to of one of our interns, Kusala Biswick.  Kusala gave Danielle a tour of the village and spoke of some of the challenges which are often met when trying to promote agroecological approaches at a village level. He said that when his family started using Permaculture many neighboring households were suspicious of their motives.  Some people even tried to sabotage their efforts by cutting down their trees or free-ranging goats on their property, but in time people came to realize the value of these low-input and sustainable practices and eventually even the chief of the village has begun to make changes at the household level.  Kusala’s brother, Biswick, has now gone on to become the Permaculture Manager at Kusamala Institute of Agriculture and Ecology, and has been on the radio many times promoting Permaculture and the work that Maulana Village has been doing.

Food Tank Visit 047

Danielle Interviewing Afshan

Another site visit that we were able to make during Danielle’s stay was to Child Legacy International.  This is a Christian non-profit which is working in Malawi to provide holistic health care services.  Powered completely by renewable energy–solar panels and wind turbines–Child Legacy in Malawi has set up a medical facility which has been able to provide health care services to over 50,000 people since its opening in 2012.  During our visit, we were able to get a tour from Afshan Omar, a certified Permaculturalist, who has been working for over a year and a half with Child Legacy to help them integrate sustainable food production systems and increase access

Vertical Wall Planters

Vertical Wall Planters at Child Legacy

to year-round diversified nutrition.  Their comprehensive approach combines preventative care (i.e. balanced nutrition, environmental health, and mental well-being) with the medicinal services of their treatment wards.  The site includes fruit orchards, fish ponds, aquaponics, diversified vegetable gardens, staple food fields, nurseries, greenhouses, compost making facilities, and more.  They have even worked with local chiefs and communities to move towards the establishment of a forested ‘green belt’ which would link the surrounding villages while helping to provide access to fuelwood, non-timber forest products, and better land management practices.

Molly and Danielle at Kusamala

Molly and Danielle at Kusamala

We also had time to take Danielle to meet with the Director of Kusamala, Molly Cheatum, who is “responsible for the overall design and implementation of the organization’s strategic plan; project and financial management of grants, reports and outreach; and communication with the board of directors, donors and policymakers.”  Molly gave us a tour of Kusamala and we were able to see their commercial organic gardens, natural medicine gardens, staple food fields, food forests, outdoor classrooms, eco-sanitation, and office buildings.  Molly described the outreach that they’ve been doing with local farmers and the recent farmer’s field day that was held in the Dowa district.  She also elaborated on the plans that are being established to create a large-scale holistic livestock management area in conjunction with the Savory Institute.  Very exciting things happening in Malawi!

Beni Dancers

Beni Dancers

Chisamba Dancers

Chisamba Dancers

And, just by chance, when we visited the Kumbali Cultural Village we were fortunate enough to arrive on a day when a local group of cultural dancers were performing traditional dances such as Chisamba and Beni.  What a great way for us to share a bit of Malawi’s culture with Food Tank and to send Danielle off in style!  It was a wonderful week…inspiring, educational, informative, and rewarding!  Never Ending Food would like to wish Danielle all the best in her future travels and continued success with all the incredible work that Food Tank has been doing!

More than a Decade of Visits!

013aThis year marks the 13th year that Never Ending Food has been visited by students from the University of Rochester, New York.  These students have all been part of a program called the ‘Malawi Immersion Seminar‘. From their website:  “The Malawi Immersion Seminar, sponsored by the University of Rochester Department of Anthropology, is a three week study abroad/field school addressing cultural, health, social, political, and ecological issues in Malawi, Africa using the anthropological method. The seminar provides students with an immersive and transformative summer experience offering a unique focus on experiential learning and training in the methods of field research.”

036aThe participants in this program are exposed to Malawian language and cultural training, they visit Never Ending Food to learn more about the use of Permaculture Design in International Development Work, and then they are ‘immersed’ in the Malawian experience by living and volunteering at a local Permaculture initiative, known as ‘Zisinthe Farm and Community Gardens‘.

This program has been developed and led over the years by a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer from Malawi named Joe Lanning.  Here is a brief bio on Joe Lanning from the Malawi Immersion Seminar website: “As an undergraduate at the University of Rochester, Joe had the transformative experience of studying abroad in Kenya, Africa. Following graduation in 2000, he spent two years serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Malawi working on health and agriculture projects. Joe’s combined experiences in Kenya and Malawi inspired the Malawi Immersion Seminar, which has brought students to Malawi since 2003. In 2007, he completed his masterʼs degree in global history examining the age of exploration in southern Africa, and he is currently completing his PhD in Ecological and Environmental Anthropology at the University of Georgia. Joe has conducted fieldwork and coordinated teams of researchers in both Malawi and Kenya. His current fieldwork in Malawi examines agricultural decision-making, risk, social networks, and learning among rural Malawian farmers. Joe has also taught an ethnographic research methods 031acourse at University of Rochester and introduction to anthropology at the University of Georgia.”

Since its start, various participants of this program have used the knowledge they have gained about Permaculture to establish Permaculture gardens at their University, write research papers on the subject, and even go on to use Permaculture as the basis for their Doctoral research work.

Never Ending Food is honored to host this group as part of their annual calendar of events and we look forward to many more years of visits!

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Driveway--2011

Driveway–2011

Driveway--2015

Driveway–2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

Front Yard--2011

Front Yard–2011

Front Yard--2015

Front Yard–2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gate--2011

Gate–2011

Gate--2015

Gate–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:

Abstract

??????????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,www.kusamala.org) 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 www.neveverendingfood.org. 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 www.kusamala.org. 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 www.neverendingfood.org . 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!