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.

2018 Agriculture Challenges

th (3)This year in Malawi, farmers have faced a host of challenges ranging from drought-like conditions, followed by flooding, widespread outbreaks of fall armyworm, and even an increase in aphids.  If you follow agri-business news sites, there is now a growing call for scaling-up the use of genetic engineering to combat these problems.  However, using genetic engineering to mask one problem generally fails to address the root-causes of problems as a whole.  Nature is an intricately connected web of complex interactions, and, as John Muir, the Scottish-American Naturalist and environmental philosopher, once pointed out: “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”  The current trend to use genetic engineering to make plants inherently toxic to the ecosystems in which they grow, or to make them resistant to the free-for-all spraying of herbicides, is contributing to the pollution of the natural systems which sustain all life on the planet (including humans).  In Pope Francis’ 2015 Encyclical on climate change, he wrote: “There is also pollution that affects everyone, caused by transport, industrial fumes, substances which contribute to the acidification of soil and water, fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides, herbicides and agrotoxins in general.  Technology, which, linked to business interests, is presented as the only way of solving these problems in fact proves incapable of seeing the mysterious network of relations between things and so sometimes solves one problem only to create others.” (Laudato Si’, section 20)

Natural solutions exist, and farmers in Malawi who have learned how to work with nature–rather than against it–are finding that, despite challenges, they are still outperforming many industrialized, monocropped, and high-input systems.  This first set of pictures were taken at Never Ending Food just as this season’s rains were beginning (Nov. 13, 2017).  Farmers who chose to monocrop maize were just starting to see germination and would have to wait another 4-5 months (March/April) to harvest any food.  Meanwhile, the diversified Permaculture systems, which mimic the abundance of nature, were already thriving and producing highly-nutritious foods.

November 13, 2017

The pictures below were all taken in our community around Never Ending Food on Feb. 16, 2018 and show the difference between those who cared for the entirety of the ecosystem as opposed to those who didn’t.  The fields on the left are all monocropped maize fields, planted with expensive hybridized seed, and fed with expensive chemical fertilizers.  The fields on the right are all diversified, open-pollinated, and organic.  Solutions exist without having to use genetic engineering to adapt the world’s plants and animals to unhealthy systems of agriculture!

Feb 16, 2018

Introducing Jacob Jumpha!

Jacob with shoes and a mat that he made out of recycled plastic

Jacob with shoes and a mat that he made out of recycled plastic

Never Ending Food is proud to introduce our newest intern, Jacob Jumpha.  Jacob lives in the village of Chalira, about 2 kilometers from Never Ending Food.  We first met Jacob in 2011, when he was 15 years old.  At that time, he was still in school and working with a local group called ‘New Life Permaculture‘, which recycles plastic into bags, mats, shoes, hats, and various other products.  At that time, we created a page on our website highlighting some of his activities.  Jacob has now graduated from school and continues to work with this group, even traveling to teach other people how to make similar products.

Since joining the Never Ending Food team, Jacob has attended a one-week Action for Natural Medicine (ANAMED) training, which taught him how to identify and safely use commonly found natural medicines.  He has also been involved in teaching the numerous groups that come to visit us here at Never Ending Food (recently this has included university students, refugees, reporters, local community members, and even a Group Village Headman).

As part of his internship, Jacob is currently learning about–and practicing–Permaculture here at Never Ending Food, as well as around his own home.  He has recently embarked on helping to create a design for his parent’s home.  His passion is unrivaled, and he has already inspired several people in his village–as well as in nearby villages–to begin taking up Permaculture ideas.  The end-goal is to eventually get Jacob certified in Permaculture Design and then continue using these skills to make Malawi a healthier and more sustainable nation.  He is an inspiration, a role model, and we are honored to have him as an intern.  Keep up the great work Jacob!

Jacob showing newly established container gardens and solar dryer at his parent's house.

Jacob showing newly established container gardens and solar dryer at his parent’s house.

Jacob harvesting grey water from the community washing area into his yard.

Jacob harvesting grey water from the community washing area into his yard.

Jacob's front yard--full of foods and natural medicines.

Jacob’s front yard–full of foods and natural medicines.

Jacob's bathing area, reusing grey water to grow bananas.

Jacob’s bathing area, reusing grey water to grow bananas.

Refugees Visit Never Ending Food!

Zaleka Visit Dec 2017 203aThis week, Never Ending Food hosted a visit of about 30 refugees from the Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Dowa, Malawi.  Representing displaced people from various countries in the region, the tour was conducted in English and translated into Swahili.  The participants were able to witness–first hand–the amazing potential and benefits that Permaculture design can provide for people (no matter where we come from or where we end up)!  Due to the large size of the group, we broke into two smaller groups, one being led by Never Ending Food‘s Manager, Peter Kaniye, and one led by Never Ending Food Co-founder, Kristof Nordin.  We were able to show the group the basics of designing (e.g. guilds, zones, soil and water management, animal management, etc), as well as various sustainable technologies (e.g. composting toilets, worm farming, paper briquettes, solar drying, rainwater harvesting, compost making, mulching, etc.)  The group was very inspired by what they saw and vowed to begin implementing these ideas at the refugee camp to address issues of food security, nutrition, and the reduction of poverty.  Below are some pictures from the day:

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Agriculture Extension Officers Complete Permaculture Training!

IMG_1183Kusamala has just completed a 2-week Permaculture Design Course (PDC) for 16 agriculture extension officers, representing 4 different districts.  Kristof Nordin, from Never Ending Food, facilitated the first week, and Luwayo Biswick, from Kusamala, facilitated the second week.  The participants went through the entire design process from observation to mapping to the creation of individual designs.  They learned about Permaculture ethics, principles, and design tools (such as guilds, zones, and sector influences).  Numerous learning techniques were used, including: large and small group work, hands-on practicals, audio/visual aids, field visits, homework assignments, competitions, and more.

These newly certified Permaculture Designers have created action plans and are ready to get out into the field to share these ideas within the communities in which they work.  With the early onset of the rains, they have a great opportunity to begin implementing as soon as they get home.  All the best to each and every participant and please try to link up with the numerous other people in each of your districts who are already practicing Permaculture!

Liquid Manure

Liquid Manure

Compost Making

Compost Making

Design Practicals

Design Practicals