School children happily welcome the visitors from EcoSolidar.

Sustainable livelihoods thanks to school gardens 

ASUD (Action for Sustainable Development) works together with five primary schools and the surrounding communities in the district of Mzimba in northern Malawi. The project aims to improve the nutritional and economic situation of schoolchildren and families through sustainable agriculture. 

Photo Report from the project in Malawi

Schoolchildren in their garden at the primary school.

The project started at one school in 2018 and has been implemented at a total of five primary schools in the Mzimba region since 2022. In schools where malnutrition is a widespread problem, school gardens are being planted with the aim of improving the nutritional situation of the schoolchildren. The cooking demonstrations organized at the schools serve the same purpose. At the same time, the garden is also used as a learning field for organic and locally adapted agriculture.  

Elderly woman tending her lush garden.

The schoolchildren’s families also work in the school garden and on the school grounds, thus acquiring knowledge about plant varieties, pig farming, composting, irrigation and measures against evaporation and erosion. 

These parents proudly present their magnificent garden.

They apply this knowledge at home: they plant their own home gardens in which they grow native vegetable varieties to supplement and improve their diet.  

The lead farmer explains new farming methods to her group.

Individual farmers take on the role of lead farmers: they encourage other villagers to plant their own small gardens and are there to help and give advice.

Farmers make their compost.

The production of compost and of organic plant protection products, which help to increase the harvest, is a central element in ASUD’s knowledge transfer.

Inspection of a pigsty and the animals in a village.

Farmers who are interested in animal breeding receive pigs from ASUD. If reproduction is successful, the piglets are distributed to other villagers. At the same time, the pig manure is used to produce compost..

Farmer irrigating her field with a hose.

Groups of farmers merge together to plant common fields close to water sources or streams. They can irrigate these fields using solar-powered water pumps, enabling them to grow maize, beans, tomatoes and other vegetables even in the dry season.  

Preparation of a rich meal.

Thanks to the cooking demonstrations at the schools, the pupils’ parents learn how to prepare nutritious and varied meals.

The farmer presents her harvest.

The surplus harvest is sold and provides an additional income for the families.  

Savings group are advised by ASUD employees.

In the villages, it is mainly the women who form savings groups. They are trained and supported in bookkeeping and money management by ASUD employees. The money they save is used for common causes such as the maintenance of wells and solar-powered water pumps, for communal pig farming or for emergencies. 

Thanks to the wells, the gardens can be watered more easily.

ASUD has dug wells at all five project schools and in several communities together with the local population so that people have access to clean water, which they can also use to irrigate their home gardens. 

Explanations of how the function of the swales.

Various techniques are used to minimise water loss in the fields, prevent soil erosion and improve soil fertility. These include the digging of swales (see picture) in the fields and the planting of vertiver grass. 

An ASUD employee explains the compost production process at the APIC training centre.

Parallel to its work with schools and villages, ASUD has been setting up the APIC (ASUD Permaculture Innovation Centre) training centre for organic farming since 2022. Here, the team is implementing organic farming techniques and testing new technologies. There are also plans for setting up a seed bank of local seeds, which will then be distributed to farmers. 

Different interested parties can learn more about permaculture at APIC.

APIC serves as a training centre for farmers, teachers, representatives of the local authorities and other interested parties. 

Construction of the hostel began in spring 2024.

In addition to accommodations for ASUD employees, a small hostel is being built on the site so that in the future smaller groups can also be accommodated at the centre for training workshops that last several days.

Inauguration of the well with government representatives.

Networking with other partners is essential for the long-term success of the project. ASUD maintains relationships with government representatives (especially of the Ministry of Agriculture and Education) as well as with other local NGOs. In the photo, the district commissioner is making a speech at the inauguration of the well in Mtheto, St Monica.

The government representative was able to see the work of the villagers for himself.

After inaugurating the well, the government representative was given a tour of the village. This made him realise the huge impact that access to water has on village life. 

Respectful cooperation is one of the keys to the project's success.

The close and respectful cooperation between ASUD and the farmers as well as the representatives of the schools and other institutions is an essential contribution to the success of the project.