This past Saturday, Kusamala celebrated the graduation of our apprentices, who chave completed a six-month permaculture training at Kusamala. The apprenticeship program at Kusamala is an important part of Kusamala’s mission to strengthen the capacity and knowledge base of Malawian permaculture trainers.
As a culmination of their studies each apprentice chose an area of land either at Kusamala or around their home, and designed a permaculture plan, which was presented at the graduation ceremony. To successfuly earn a permaculture certificate the apprentices were required to take into consideration a variety of factors including energy efficiency, soil health, water conservation, crop diversification, wind currents and sun path, as well as human elements such as shelter, social structures and accessibility to (composting!) toilets.
Our guest of honor, Never Ending Food co-founder Kristof Nordin, was very impressed. “These designs are as good and as imaginative as any I have seen during my 15 years teaching permaculture in Malawi.”
We agree that our apprentices have come a long way. “Before coming to Kusamala I did not know how to work with the environment. After we grew crops we would burn the fields,” explained Grace, an apprentice from Home of Hope Orphanage in Mchinji. “[Studying at Kusamala] changed my understanding of the relationship between people and the environment.”
“What will change my life in particular is [the concept of] mixed cropping,” added Mercy Banda, another apprentice from Home of Hope. “Because we plant different kinds of foods, we harvest during different seasons.”
In Malawi maize is grown on 90% of all cultivated land and provides over 50% of total calories in an average Malawian’s diet. This monocropping creates a food supply vulnerable to external volatility. Additionally, dietary paucity from a maize based diet is linked to nutritional deficiencies among the population. Permaculture promotes agricultural and dietary diversity, two important steps towards food security in Malawi.
Kusamala’s four apprentices from Home of Hope Orphanage will begin attachments with two rural livelihood organizations: African Moringa and Permaculture Project, based in Cape McClear, and Landirani Trust, based in Lilongwe district. Additionally, Enock Chikale will continue as our head gardener, while Emmanuel Msanjula will continue work as a member of the Mtendere farmer’s cooperative, a farmer’s group which partners with Kusamala. As Kusamala’s trainer and project manager Luwayo Biswick put it, “this is not an end to your learning, this is only the beginning.”
Kusamala is excited to follow the development of our apprentices, as they share their knowledge with different communities and develop their skills as permaculture trainers.”I want to help change the attitudes of people in my village,” emphasized Mercy. Enock echoed this sentiment, “I will go teach people in my village to conserve their land. It is important to care for the environment.”
Agricultural knowledge and respect for the environment have traditionally been important aspects of Malawian culture. In the past 200 years this knowledge base has slowly eroded; permaculture is one way of revitalizing the culture of environmental stewardship in Malawi.
“Agriculture is defined as the science, business and art of cultivation,” Kristof said on Saturday. “We have the science and the business, but we lack the art. Let’s bring the art back into agriculture.”