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.

Permaculture Discovery Centre

Over the years, there has been growing interest from individuals, groups, schools and organisations to visit Never Ending Food to learn more about the use of Permaculture Design Principles.  What began as implementation of Permaculture ideas around the Nordin’s personal home has grown into a 3-acre demonstration site, which now accommodates up to 2-3 groups per week.  As the frequency and size of these groups has been increasing, so too has Never Ending Food’s need to expand our capacity for the hosting of these groups.   In response to this increased demand, Never Ending Food has recently broke ground on an ambitious new project to build a large outdoor classroom, called the ‘Permaculture Discovery Centre‘.

PDC-Top ViewWe are working with a local team of sustainable builders who have come up with a wonderful design for the building.  The aim is to make the classroom itself a demonstration of sustainable building materials and technologies.  The walls will be comprised of a combination of rammed earth and ‘super-adobe’, the roof will be a blend of thatching and woven bamboo, and the lighting will take advantage of natural sunlight with glass bottles integrated into the wall.  There will be a lockable storage room that will accommodate Never Ending Food’s food and resource display, which will be able to be rolled out into the teaching area when groups visit.  Seating for groups will be made up of auditorium-style rammed earth tiers that should be able to seat between 40-50 people.  We are extremely excited about this project and we sincerely hope that it will help with the dissemination of Permaculture ideas in Malawi.
 
If you would like to help support this project financially, please feel free to click on our PayPal tab, or follow the link by clicking here. Any assistance will be greatly appreciated (and put to good use).

PDC-Side View

We have added a page on our site to highlight the progress of this build, so watch for updates!

Measuring the foundation

Billy – Measuring the foundation with his team (there are women on the team as well!)

Breaking Ground

Breaking Ground

 

Happy Earth Day 2016!

To celebrate this year’s Earth Day, we thought that we’d share a few pictures of some of the amazing Permaculture and agroecology initiatives throughout Malawi:

Never Ending Food, Chitedze

Never Ending Food, Chitedze

Kusamala Institute of Agriculture and Ecology, near Lilongwe

Kusamala Institute of Agriculture and Ecology, near Lilongwe

The Sustainability Centre, Blantyre

The Sustainability Centre, Blantyre

Child Legacy, near Msundwe

Child Legacy, near Msundwe

Zisinthe Farm and Community Gardens, near Ntcheu

Zisinthe Farm and Community Gardens, near Ntcheu

Lukwe Eco-Camp, near Livingstonia

Lukwe Eco-Camp, near Livingstonia

Chilala School, near Chinteche

Chilala School, near Chinteche

Maulana Village, near Chitedze

Maulana Village, near Chitedze

Garden's Gate, near Njewa

Garden’s Gate, near Njewa

Pastor Chawawa's house, near Kanengo

Pastor Chawawa’s house, near Kanengo

Tikondwe Freedom Gardens, near Dowa

Tikondwe Freedom Gardens, near Dowa

Mrs. Sitima's House, near Chiradzulu

Mrs. Sitima’s House, near Chiradzulu