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.

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.