In Malawi, malnutrition is a serious threat. In rural areas 48% of children are stunted while 64% suffer from anemia (iron-deficiency). While the majority of the population works in the agricultural sector, they primarily grow maize and tobacco; both of which contain very little to no nutritional value.

At Kusamala, we see permaculture as a means to combat malnutrition and food insecurity throughout Malawi. Through promoting crop diversity at the household level, permaculture increases a family’s access to nutritious, diverse, and culturally appropriate foods.

Dan’s banana circle using gray water from his shower

Through our partnership with the Red Soil Project, Kusamala is combating food insecurity in our own backyard – starting with our very own staff. From June to October of 2012, Kusamala hosted a series of permaculture trainings for our staff and their family members. The trainings were designed to give the participants a basic understanding of permaculture design and how they can implement vegetable gardens and food forests around their homes.

Since November, Kusamala and Red Soil have been providing our staff and their families with technical and material support as they embark on their household designs. While we have provided some seeds and tree seedlings, the staff members have been encouraged to use their local resources as much as possible. In this way, their gardens can act as an demonstration and inspiration to their neighbors, who can see what is possible using the resources they already have.

Musa’s permaculture garden next to his house

Now that the rains have come and our staff’s gardens have had time to develop, we are starting to see the fruits (and vegetables!) of the project. Last week, Biswick, our permaculture trainer, headed out to see what some of our staff have done so far in Kandiweni village. What he saw, and photographed, was impressive.

What, just months ago, were over swept plots of dirt are now fertile gardens providing herbs and vegetables for our staff’s families. Dan, a member of our implementation team, has built a banana circle off of his bath to harvest the gray water. He has also created a fruit and fuel orchard as well as a garden abutting his house growing beans, mustard greens, maize, aloe, roselle, sweet potatoes, lemongrass, chives, pumpkins, and coco yams, among other crops.

Joseph’s father harvesting beans from their new garden

Dan is not alone in his village. Joseph, from our commercial garden team, and Musa, Dan’s brother, have also built gardens around their home and are starting to harvest vegetables from their plots. Mike and Sam, from our implementation and commercial garden teams, have planted fruit, fuel, and forage trees as well as building swales for water management and to control erosion, a major problem in their area.

We are very excited to see the progress everyone is making and particularly to see the impact the gardens have on diet diversity and household nutrition. Throughout the project we will be collecting data to quantify the impact, but in the meantime seeing the gardens and hearing stories from our staff is motivation enough.

Staff members taking home fruit trees to plant

For more information on this project, check out our Red Soil Project page or past blog posts.