Never Ending Food was able to spend half a day with the most recent group of Peace Corps Volunteers. This was a combined group of Health and Environment Sector volunteers who will be swearing-in this coming week and heading to their respective sites throughout the country. During the morning’s session we were able to highlight the abundance of Malawi’s local resources and their importance in the sustainability of a Peace Corps’ service. We looked at the reality of being able to work with their communities to create well-balanced and nutritious diets through diversified agricultural practices, as well as working towards poverty reduction through income generating activities and the use of ‘non-timber forest products’.
The entire group was walked through the basics of Permaculture site design by looking at under-utilized resources around the Malawi College of Forestry where Peace Corps holds their trainings. We discovered organic matter piles that had been piled up and forgotten about, but which had turned into beautiful compost. We found cement and brick rain gutters which had been built to direct water away from buildings and now served to dump more than half a million liters of wasted water along the side of a road. (The same amount of bricks and cement could have easily been utilized to construct water harvesting tanks.) We also looked at the poor quality and pale color of the soil where people were trying to produce all their food for the entire year and compared it with the incredibly rich, black, and moist soil of the surrounding natural areas.
Hopefully these observations will help some of these volunteers to go to their sites with new ‘Permaculture’ eyes and really assess some of the resources that they already have to work with. If, over the course of the next two years, these Volunteers can get their community members to realize Malawi’s potential to find solutions to current problems, they will be able to work themselves out of a job—which is the ultimate aim of a ‘successful’ Volunteer. Good luck in your service and remember that Never Ending Food will continue to support your efforts in any way that we can.