To explore the impacts of our partnership project with Red Soil Project, we will be writing a series of posts featuring stories from our staff members. We will look at how they are implementing permaculture around their homes and how this is impacting their lives.
Daniel Chikhawo has been working at Kusamala’s demonstration centre since its inception in 2009. He is one of our three-member implementation team charged with maintaining our Memo garden, staple field, buildings, and other aspects of our demonstrations.
Dan lives in Chikhawo Village, a forty-minute walk from the Centre. His journey is made particularly challenging in the rainy season, when he has to ford the swollen Lilongwe River. Having grown up in this community, Dan lives next door to his parents, across the road from his brother, and near to many other relations. Dan and his wife currently have one baby girl.
Having worked for the centre for a few years now, Dan has been exposed to many permaculture practices and has experimented with home gardens before. In the past, he has always struggled with the free-range livestock in his village eating his hard work. In Malawian villages where goats, chickens, and pigs roam between houses, this can be a serious constraint to implementing permaculture around the house.
This time, after receiving training and support from Kusamala and the Red Soil Project, Dan decided to fence his garden using readily available tithonia (Mexican sunflower) branches. This low-cost fence effectively kept out much of the livestock – though Dan also contributes his recent success to his wife, who scared out the most persistent animals.
Dan named his Zone 1 Tifalitze (meaning “to spread” in Chichewa) Permaculture Garden, where he planted a variety of vegetables, fast-growing fruits, and staples. By eating out of this garden Dan was able to save money on vegetables throughout the rainy season, a time that many farmers consider the hungry season. He even grew enough vegetables to share with his family and friends. In addition to saving money, Dan also saved time, as the nearest vegetable market is an hour walk away.
While Dan was able to harvest from his Zone 1 vegetable garden within weeks, he has also invested effort into a more long-term Zone 2. Farther up the hill, behind his house, Dan has planted a diverse fruit orchard, including vegetated swales for water management. While some of the trees were provided through Red Soil Project funding, Dan also sourced papaya, mango, guava, and banana trees on his own. Next he plans to put a fence around this Zone 2 so that he can plant and protect more crops in the area.
While Dan is very pleased at the benefits his work this past rainy season, he is also hoping to use it to as a demonstration for his community. “People who find me working ask me what I am doing and express interest in learning themselves,” Dan says. “I want my household to change and my village too in the next four years.”
Kusamala plans to be there to support Dan in this effort.