Organic farming: From the school to the communities
In Ng’ongo, a remote village in the north of Malawi, the village community started to establish a permaculture garden at the school four years ago. This project was supported by ASUD (Action for Sustainable Development). Thanks to this garden, the students are better nourished and, as a consequence, school absenteeism has strongly decreased and the performance of the pupils has improved. The school produces the required compost itself by means of the manure produced by the pigs. The mothers of the school children are also involved. They have organised themselves in clubs and have been learning organic farming techniques through their work in the school garden. Today, these women also have permaculture gardens at home, from which they can harvest vegetables for a balanced diet. They support each other and pass on their knowledge to other families in their villages. In less than three years, a holistic project has been developed which now serves as a model for other communities.
Photo report about the project in Malawi
Ellen Magawa, teacher at the primary school in Ng’ongo in northern Malawi, is teaching her students how to make compost. For this purpose, they dig pits which are filled with the compost material, covered and left to rest. They will later use the compost in the school garden and the organically produced vegetables will provide the common school lunch.
This project started with a small school garden that was to provide the pupils with balanced meals at school and, in turn, was to enable them to learn better. Today, the garden with vegetables, medicinal plants and pest-repellent plants has become both a source of food and a place of training.
Pigs are kept on the school premises and their manure is an important ingredient in the compost. These pigsties in this foto are part of the demonstration farm at the school in Ng’ongo and are at that moment being visited by members of the Ministry of Agriculture and the principals of other schools with the aim of exchanging know-how about pig farming.
The mothers of the school children also take care of the pigs and thus learn everything important for their own pig farming. Back in their communities, they put what they have learned into practice independently. Pig farming is not easy, the pigsties must be well built and maintained and the pigs must be expertly cared for. In Ng’ongo there has already been some success in breeding.
Ellen Magawa has been involved in the project from the start and she says: “This project has been our project from the very beginning. We were asked what we wanted to implement and how we wanted to do it. We were given the opportunity for further training in permaculture so that we could gain the necessary know-how. In this way the school garden has become the heart of the project and everyone involved has realised that with their commitment they can considerably improve the situation of their family and of the whole community”.
Around 400 children from the area attend the primary school of Ng’ongo. On the open doors day there is a lot of activity on the premises: everything must be shown and seen, the school and the school garden as well as the pigsties.
The school had no well for a long time and the children had to bring the water for drinking, washing their hands and for the plants from far away. In 2018, EcoSolidar supported the construction of a school well, making it possible for the school and the community to obtain their own water. Especially in the current corona crisis it is very important to have enough clean water for drinking and for following the measures of hygiene.
Vegetables are planted in the school garden to provide the children with a balanced meal every day. This is to combat malnutrition and prevent school absenteeism since hungry children often do not come to school at all or can hardly concentrate. The knowledge of organic farming techniques has also increased the children’s and their mothers’ knowledge about healthy eating. Since the women now have such gardens at home, they can better feed their families and, in addition, share the skills they have gained with other farmers.
Visitors to the clubs of lead and follower farmers who cultivate their own organic permaculture gardens in the villages around Ng’ongo, will always be welcomed with dancing and singing. Here Thomas Ngwira, our project partner and managing director at ASUD, and the project officer are joining in the dancing!
The mothers who regularly work in the school garden and attend courses on organic farming techniques and permaculture take their new skills home with them and pass them on to other farmers. Towera Chawula, a lead farmer, supports a group of women in their village community in establishing their own permaculture garden. Here she is advising Witness Ngwira on problems in her garden.
In the villages, the families are now also producing their own organic compost and are having good results with it. Thus they are less dependent on artificial fertiliser, which is expensive and harms the soil in the long term. The permaculture techniques also help them save water. For the farming families, the different methods of organic cultivation are crucial for a good harvest and for their economic independence.
These women are part of a club in which the lead farmers pass on their acquired knowledge about nutrition, pig farming, compost production and organic farming to the follower farmers. Apart from the numerous advantages for the food situation and the economic independence of the families as well as for the school performance of the children, learning together in the communities is also great fun!
The two follower farmers grind their own organic maize in their village. After milling the white maize is processed into N’sima, a kind of thick polenta. The polenta is served with a sauce and is the most important staple food of the families.