Creating sustainable livelihoods by means of school gardens

School children happily welcome the visitors from EcoSolidar.

Creating sustainable livelihoods by means of 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.

School Gardens Against Hunger

In northern Malawi, our partner organisation ASUD supports primary schools in setting up permaculture school gardens. By promoting sustainable agriculture, ASUD works with school communities to combat hunger and malnutrition.


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.

Unterricht Kompostherstellung

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.

Gemüsegarten Eltern

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.

Schweinestall Holz

The farmers also build pigsties at home and support each other in caring for the pigs and their reproduction.

Kompostherstellung neu

These women farmers are trying out a new variant of compost production at home.

Bett Zuhause

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.

Haus neue Fenster

This family was able to buy new windows for their house thanks to the sale of the surplus from their vegetable garden.

Wasser holen

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.

Bewässerung Felder Solarpanel

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.

Weg zum Gemeinschaftsfeld

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.

Mütter an der Schule

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.”

Lehrerin Kompost neue Schule

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.

Thomas Einweihung Feier

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.


Our local partner organisation KODO (Kuthandiza Osayenda Disability Outreach) supports farmers with walking disabilities in the areas of mobility, income generation and food security in Salima, Malawi.

Pioniergeist Fotoreportage


Our local partner organisation KODO (Kuthandiza Osayenda Disability Outreach) supports farmers with walking disabilities in the areas of mobility, income generation and food security in Salima, Malawi. KODO offers courses in tailoring and cane chair making. At the same time, all participants are trained in organic farming and permaculture and accompanied in the implementation of  these new techniques. Thanks to organic farming techniques, they are able to feed themselves and their families in a healthy manner without having to spend a lot of money on seeds and chemical fertilisers. They pass on their new know-how to others, which simultaneously strengthens their social position in the community. 

Photos: EcoSolidar



At KODO there is a special building which houses the courses in tailoring and cane chair making, a permaculture garden and next to it a hostel financed by EcoSolidar with rooms for the course participants. 

KODO Training Kompost

All course participants are trained in organic farming during their time at KODO. Here, a training on compost production is taking place.

KODO Zimmer und Betten

The rooms are tailored to the needs of course participants with walking disabilities, i.e. the beds are built extra low.

KODO Tereza und Kollegin

Tereza Bute (right) has been trained in tailoring and organic farming at KODO. Today she is a lead farmer. In this capacity, she passes on her know-how to 30 farmers from her village.

KODO Tereza Kompost

Here, Tereza is showing a group of villagers how they can make simple organic compost from existing natural materials so that they do not have to buy chemical fertilisers.

In the village, Tereza breeds rabbits, which the farming families distribute among themselves. Rabbits provide manure for the compost. Tereza continuously acquires new know-how and passes it on to the others. In May 2021, she was able to attend an external training course at the Paradise Institute, Malawi with KODO.

Tereza and her husband are a good team. During her 6-month absence, her husband took care of the household and the children. Both of them saw the training as an investment in the future that is paying off today.

At home, Tereza can successfully apply what she has learned, namely how to make organic compost, which plants to use for pest control and how to provide enough moisture by means of irrigation techniques and soil cover.

Tereza mit Mann und Sohn Ernte

Tereza and her husband are harvesting fresh peanuts in their field. They are satisfied with their harvest.

KODO Erdnüsse Kreis

The harvesting is attracting the children from the village, who sit down and help to separate the peanuts from the stalks. On this occasion, the fresh fruits are eagerly tasted.

Dorothy Kabambe has learned organic farming and tailoring at KODO. At home, she sews and sells clothes. The new income gives her self-confidence and improves her social standing in the community.

George Chimpiko, founder and director of KODO, on the road with Dorothy. He himself also has a walking disability. His goal is to enable people with walking disabilities to be able to provide for themselves.

Dorothy mit Rollstuhl

Dorothy has received a wheelchair from KODO. She can use it to go to her field and work there. An important goal of KODO is to provide mobility to farmers with walking disabilities to make them more independent.

Polina Judesi (right) has completed a course in weaving at KODO and has been taught organic farming at the same time. Today she produces and sells small tables and chairs. She makes compost for her fields and she uses local maize varieties, from which she produces her own seeds. This makes her independent of buying expensive seedlings and chemical fertilisers. As a lead farmer, she passes on her know-how to others. 

Akim Chifuno is a follow farmer of Polina. She regularly visits him and assists him in overcoming any difficulties. Akim has attended a course in tailoring and organic farming at KODO. He is able to earn a small income by sewing. In addition, Akim has planted a cotton field, for which he makes his own organic compost, and has surrounded it with a number of pest-repellent plants. And what is important, he has found a market for the cotton he produces.

KODO Malawi Masken

During the Corona pandemic, the training centre had to close temporarily. During this time, the former course participants sewed masks and KODO set up hand-washing stations in the villages. Here, George Chimpiko (left) is visiting a former course participant who is sewing masks.

Organic farming: From the school to the communities

In Ng’ongo, a remote village in the north of Malawi, the village community, supported by ASUD (Action for Sustainable Development), started to establish a permaculture garden at the school four years ago. Thanks to this garden, school absenteeism has strongly decreased and the performance of the pupils has increased.


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

Malawi Permakultur Schulgarten

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.

Malawi Permakultur Schulgarten

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.

Malawi Permakultur Schulgarten

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.

Malawi Permakultur Schulgarten Schweine

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.

Malawi Permakultur Schulgarten

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”.

Malawi Permakultur Schulgarten

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.

Malawi Permakultur Schulgarten

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.

Malawi Permakultur Schulgarten

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. 

Malawi Permakultur Schulgarten

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!

Malawi Permakultur Schulgarten

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.  

Malawi Permakultur Schulgarten

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.

Malawi Permakultur Schulgarten

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!

Malawi Permakultur Schulgarten

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.

Food security for farmers with a disability

In Salima, Malawi, KODO introduces (walking-impaired) farmers who have a walking handicap to the basic techniques of organic agriculture and supports their practical implementation. For the people with a walking handicap and their relatives this is a major step towards independence. KODO supports a total of 150 families in 5 communities, Maumsamantha Chimithira and Tobias Mafuken among them.

Food security for farmers with a disability

In Salima, Malawi, KODO introduces (walking-impaired) farmers who have a walking handicap to the basic techniques of organic agriculture and supports their practical implementation. For the people with a walking handicap and their relatives this is a major step towards independence. KODO supports a total of 150 families in 5 communities, Maumsamantha Chimithira and Tobias Mafuken among them.

Photos Christian Jaeggi

Photo report about the project in Malawi

The walking-impaired Maumsamantha Chimithira is on the way to her small piece of land. The 34-year-old farmer is a single parent and has to provide for her four children.

Maumsamantha has a handicap in walking due to a failed operation in her childhood. Medical care in Malawi is inadequate. Leg pain is part of Maumsamantha’s daily life.

Maumsamantha lives together with her four children and her parents in modest circumstances in Ntschepa, Malawi. The family unites in taking care of the fields and processing the harvest.

Off to the neighbouring village: Maumsamantha is one of the lead farmers trained by KODO. She passes on her know-how to other smallholders, so that they can also learn about the advantages of organic agriculture.

The role of a lead farmer gives Maumsamantha great prestige and a new place in the community. This fills her with pride.

George Chimpiko, director of KODO, gives Maumsamantha courage and confidence in difficult times. He was born with a clubfoot and knows how hard it is to find one’s way with a disability in Malawi.

Maumsamantha has learned with KODO how to produce compost and apply other organic farming methods. Since then she has been able to do without expensive hybrid seeds and toxic pesticides.

Mealtime: Maumsamantha and her family can live from their harvests. This is a great achievement, because Malawi has been hit by severe droughts and food shortages in recent years.

Hunger and malnutrition are widespread in Malawi. This is where KODO comes in: People with disabilities should be able to produce their own food with simple means and little money.

In Chimpaga, Malawi, charismatic Tobias Mafuken introduces his community members to organic agriculture. He has been trained as a lead farmer by KODO.

Tobias has four children and a wife who supports him loyally. Tobias is glad that thanks to KODO’s training he can provide for his family despite his disability.

Tobias lives with his family in very modest circumstances. A small room, some containers for the meals, a few blankets and tools have to be enough for the family of six. They have no access to electricity or running water.

With great persuasiveness Tobias shows other farmers how compost is produced. For him, the advantages of organic agriculture are clear: no dependence on expensive seeds and chemical pesticides, a better quality of the produce and long-term soil fertility.

The hard work on the field was worth it. Tobias and his family can live from the harvest again this year. His wife lets the corn dry in the sun.

The village community of Chimpanga has received three goats from KODO as an aid to start organic agriculture. Through the goat manure the fertility of the soil will be increased and the harvest will be richer in the long run.

Although Tobias has to walk on crutches, he can do a lot of agricultural work on his own. His wife supports him with the rest, for example with the production of liquid fertilizer.

Tobias, whose walking disability is due to a snake bite in his childhood, is not the only one with this fate. KODO enables farmers with disabilities and their relatives to achieve independence.

Despite his disability Tobias is a recognised member of the community thanks to his work as a lead farmer.