SCHOOL GARDENS AGAINST HUNGER
In northern Malawi, our partner organisation ASUD (Action for Sustainable Development) supports primary schools in setting up permaculture school gardens. By promoting sustainable agriculture, ASUD works with school communities to combat hunger and malnutrition.
Photo Report from the project in Malawi
It all started with a school garden at the primary school in Ng’ongo. Today, this school is a showcase for ASUD’s project. The teachers are continuing their education in permaculture techniques. Besides the vegetable garden, fruit trees, maize, soya and bananas are grown on the school grounds; there is a well for water and a small solar system.
An important part of the project is the use of different techniques for making compost. The compost plays an important role in ensuring that the plants thrive. Here a teacher is teaching students about this topic.
Animal dung is needed to make compost, therefore the school keeps pigs. They now live in a larger and more robust pigsty and are visited and fed by the school children.
The parents learn the new techniques while helping in the school garden and apply them at home. Some of them are particularly committed and continue to test and develop these techniques. They use their know-how to support groups of farmers from the surrounding area in the building and successful cultivation of permaculture gardens.
The farmers also build pigsties at home and support each other in caring for the pigs and their reproduction.
These women farmers are trying out a new variant of compost production at home.
The harvests from the gardens provide the families with healthy vegetables. Thanks to the self-produced compost and the techniques for soil-moisture maintenance, the plants are thriving. The surplus can be sold on the market. This extra income has made it possible for Grace and her mother Mirrium to buy a bed.
They were also able to afford a small solar panel for the roof which provides them with electricity to charge their mobile phones.
This family was able to buy new windows for their house thanks to the sale of the surplus from their vegetable garden.
A few years ago, EcoSolidar financed a deep bore well for the school in Ng’ongo, thanks to which the students have clean water for drinking, cooking, their personal hygiene and the school garden. The well is also used by the village community.
Access to water used to be a big problem for the school and the community. There are water holes further away, but transporting this water is exhausting and time-consuming. In addition, the water is often polluted and hazardous to health.
Another access point to water in the region is a stream. As long as it has water, people can use it to irrigate their fields. Now, several farming families have joined forces and use solar-powered water pumps to transport water from the low-lying stream to their fields.
Through this the irrigation of fields has become easier and safer. Thanks to the solar panels, farming families can plant vegetables all year round and sell the surpluses. This pilot project is currently being extended to other communities.
A group of women on their way to their community field, which is located a little outside the village.
Women’s groups from the communities are central to ASUD’s project, which can also be seen at the new sites. The women carry the project in many ways: they join together in groups and support each other in constructing and developing their own permaculture gardens.
The women also support the schools and their children by working in the school garden. In this way, they acquire a lot of knowledge and at the same time learn new techniques, which they can implement at home. Thomas Ngwira, ASUD’s Executive Director, points out: “I have learnt that the whole community benefits from the women’s support, as they are directly responsible for the family’s well-being.”
Currently, four other primary schools in northern Malawi are implementing the same project at their premises. Ownership, i.e. the fact that the project belongs to the people involved and is implemented and supported by them, is also a key priority at these new sites. Thomas Ngwira is convinced that this is the only way the projects will make sense and last in the long term.
During our last visit, there were festive inauguration ceremonies. The newly planted school gardens, the new pigsties and the banana plantations were visited and celebrated by the people. The joy about this project and the importance for the people were clearly noticeable.