Anti-Plastics Day!

004aOn June 9th, the Association of Environmental Journalists (AEJ), in conjunction with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) held a ‘Green Walk’ with the theme of ‘Beating Plastic Pollution’.  This walk took place in Lilongwe, Malawi and was aimed at raising awareness of the growing plight of plastic pollution in the country.  Youth, politicians, journalists, and community advocates all took part in the event and repeated the mantra: “Reduce, Reuse, Refuse”!

NEF Intern Kondwani M'daleNever Ending Food sent our Manager, Peter Kaniye, and one of our interns, Kondwani M’dale, to set up a display of recycled plastic items made by a group in one of our local villages.  This group makes mats, hats, shoes, cell phone covers, and bags from recycled plastic bags.

Kondwani gave a speech to the group about the importance of reusing plastics and the income which can be generated when waste is creatively turned into a resource.  Permaculture aims at achieving ‘zero waste’, so this anti-plastic event fit right into Never Ending Food‘s mission to make a greener, cleaner, and healthier Malawi.

Smile 047aA big thank you to all those who attended and supported this event.  It is definitely a step in the right direction!

Visit from Bishop Mackenzie International School

BMIS 2018 107aThis last week we hosted two groups of students from the Bishop Mackenzie International School in Lilongwe.  The students are currently studying factors which lead to the collapse of civilizations, so they were interested in learning more about how Permaculture can help to avoid these mistakes.  The word ‘Permaculture’ began as a combination of the words ‘Permanent’ and ‘Agriculture’, but most practitioners now teach it as ‘Permanent Culture’.  The sustainable use of resources is at the core of every good Permaculture design, and the three ethics–Earth Care, People Care, Fair Share–are the guiding principles for ensuring sustainable civilizations.

BMIS 2018 048aWhen we asked the students what types of things they were learning about which led to the collapse of civilizations, their responses were all centred around the misuse of resources (e.g. water, food, natural resources, etc.).  We are currently seeing many unsustainable environmental practices increasing throughout the world (e.g. deforestation, monocropping, the use of toxic chemicals, an over-reliance on fossil fuels, etc.).  Permaculture offers solutions for many of today’s challenges.

BMIS 2018 007aThe students learned about healthy soil and water management, integrated pest management, rainwater harvesting, composting toilet systems, worm farming, nutritional diversification, renewable energies, seed collection, sustainable income generating activities, and much more.  By the end of this month, we are scheduled to have four more visits of students from the Bishop Mackenzie school.  It’s wonderful to see the excitement and interest growing about the potential of Permaculture to help create Permanent Cultures!

Mzimba Farmers Visit!

Mzimba Farmer Visit April 2018 020aWith the help of a Peace Corps Volunteer, a group of farmers from Mzimba in the north of Malawi pooled their personal resources and funded a trip to Never Ending Food.  They traveled to Lilongwe and received a tour of the Parliment building where they also got to meet with their Member of Parliament.  The next morning they visited Child Legacy, a large hospital which has been implementing Permaculture for several years, and then they spent the afternoon with us here at Never Ending Food.

It was a wonderful visit with highly motivated participants.  We were able to show them a wide variety of ideas for the implementation at the household, as well as the community, level.  As a treat, we made the group a cake and juice made with from the flour of the fruit of the Camel Foot tree (‘chitimbe’ or ‘chisale’, Piliostigma thonningii).

Mzimba Farmer Visit April 2018 026aThe group was particularly interested in the worm farming and composting toilet systems.  They also seemed to appreciate all the different ways that we use to feed the soil without the use of chemical fertilizers (e.g. mulching, compost, liquid manure, nitrogen-fixers, etc).  When the participants left, they said that they were extremely excited to get home and start implementing many of the things they had learned.  We wish them all the best of luck!!

Inter Aide Visit (March 14th)

Ag Ext and Inter Aide Visits 028aInter Aide is a French organization working in Malawi in the areas of water sanitation and hygiene, agriculture, health and school support.  This week, they brought a group of extension workers and office staff to Never Ending Food to see how Permaculture ideas might be able to complement and enhance the work they are doing in the field.  Many of the areas that they are working in are already closely related to Permaculture principles.  For example, the extension workers have been involved with the promotion of local seeds, community-based seed banks, agroforestry, and crop diversification.

Ag Ext and Inter Aide Visits 043bDuring their visit, they were able to see how these ideas fit into the bigger picture of Permaculture Design.  This ‘design’ aspect is something which is often missing from many agricultural methodologies being implemented throughout Malawi.  A design is a vision for the future, and if we are aiming to create permanent agriculture (permaculture), then we need to design systems which are based upon the implementation of seasonal, perennial, diversified, and locally-appropriate resources.  Currently, most farmers harvest everything out of their fields in April and then there is very little access to food until the next April.  In a country with a tropical 12-month growing season, it doesn’t make much sense to try to get a year’s worth of food in one month.  The Inter Aide workers were able to see how Never Ending Food has been able to establish over 200 foods with access to Malawi’s 6 food-groups on a daily basis.

 

Ministry of Agriculture Extension (March 7th)

Ag Ext and Inter Aide Visits 021aEarlier this month we had a visit to Never Ending Food from a group of Agriculture Extension workers from the Lilongwe District.  Despite this year’s challenges of drought and armyworms, the extension workers were able to see the benefits and resilience of good Permaculture Design in the face of adversity.

One of the problems with many agricultural programmes in Malawi is that they often advocate for a ‘cookie cutter’ approach in which a one-size-fits-all approach to monocropping maize is supposed to work the same way throughout the country.  This leaves very little room for flexibility in the designing of unique and sustainable systems,  Permaculture allows individuals and communities to choose locally-appropriate and diverse resources to meet specific needs of nutrition, income generation, variations in rainfall patterns, soil conditions, and even cultural likes and dislikes.

Ag Ext and Inter Aide Visits 010aOften times, when government programmes promote crop diversity, they are often speaking only of a handful of crops (predominantly staple-food crops), such as maize, cassava, and sweet potatoes.  Here at Never Ending Food, we were able to show the extension workers an abundance of diversity which includes over 200 different foods.  This year, Malawi’s Nation Newspaper is already reporting that an estimated 1.9 million Malawian families will be facing hunger due to crop failure.   During the extension worker’s visit, they were able to see practical and successful solutions in action.

We were able to demonstrate many solutions to the current challenges which are faced by agricultural extension workers while working with local communities.  Many complain about the high cost of commercialized seeds, but we were able to show systems based entirely upon the use of locally-sourced, open-pollinated, and free seeds.  Instead of relying on government-subsidized fertilizer programmes, we were able to demonstrate 100% organic methods of rebuilding soil fertility (e.g. composting, mulching, liquid manure, vermiculture, composting toilets, agroforestry, etc).  While many Malawians face chronic ‘hungry seasons’ and malnutrition, we were able to walk the group through an edible ‘Garden of Eden’ with daily access to all of Malawi’s 6 food-groups on a daily basis.

Ag Ext and Inter Aide Visits 022aWe were also able to showcase sustainable technologies such as fuel-efficient stoves, hand-made paper briquettes, water harvesting, solar drying, propagation techniques, integrated pest management, and diversified income generating ideas.  Hopefully, the extension workers were able to see that their work is vital to the creation of a sustainable future here in Malawi and that all of the solutions we’ve ever needed have been sitting right in front of us–often being ignored and over-looked.