Quarterly Update from the Kusamala Institute of Agriculture & Ecology
April - June 2013

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Making the switch to dry season farming

As the rains came to an end, Kusamala switched gears by providing a series of specialized trainings on dry season gardening for our staff as a continuation of our Red Soil Project partnership. Beginning last July, Red Soil Project supported specialized staff trainings and the creation of household permaculture demonstrations. Staff and their family have now built ten village-level permaculture demonstration gardens around their homes.

Kusamala has been collecting data on the impacts of these gardens on household food security and diet diversity. While we are still in the data collection phase, the anecdotal evidence suggests that the demonstration sites have increased access to nutritious foods not just for our staff but also for their friends and family who benefit from the excess produce. Many staff report a growing interest in permaculture as neighbors ask how they can build their own household gardens.

With the dry season comes new challenges; many of these communities face severe water scarcity. While the current demonstrations have gray water harvesting systems, the resulting water often can only support a small bed or two. Given this water challenge, the trainings focused on shifting zone 1 (intensive vegetable cultivation) to the dimba (floodplain) areas. With a ready water supply, these areas are traditionally used for dry season vegetable cultivation and can be easily transitioned to utilizing more sustainable practices.

We hope to see the success of these household demonstrations during the rains continue into the dry season. Keep an eye on our blog and newsletters to find out how it progresses!

Update on JANEEMO

The JANEEMO project continues to grow and expand in Dowa and Rural Lilongwe Districts. With the change in seasons, the focus has shifted from tree planting to maintenance and care. There are now 14 household permaculture demonstration gardens, such as the one pictured above. In addition to providing fruit and vegetables to their owners, these demonstrations make wonderful education tools that our field coordinators use to spread permaculture ideas to surrounding communities.

As we gear up for the tree nursery season - planting in the nursery happens from July to August - we are expanding JANEEMO to new communities. In June, 20 representatives from Nkhundi Village participated in a 5-day workshop on agroforestry, permaculture, tree care and use. Having worked with this community previously, Kusamala is excited to bring them onboard to the JANEEMO project. 

Additionally, we have added new JANEEMO clubs in Dowa, bringing the total to 20. To handle this increase in participants, we have hired Tchaison Herebart and Joel Nkhwentchera to assist Gladson in supporting the new clubs. Tchaison and Joel come with experience in sustainable agriculture, community organizing and facilitation. We are happy to welcome these new members to our team.

Welcome to our new apprentices from Gospelink!

Kusamala is happy to announce that we have two new apprentices joining us at Nature's Gift Permaculture Centre. Maurice Vindota and Luke Makiwi are joining us from Gospelink, which is sponsoring their three-month apprenticeship with Kusamala. Maurice joins us from Ntcheu District and Luke from Dowa District, both are studying theology with Gospelink and help to staff the organization's farm in Salima.

Working on their farm, Maurice and Luke noticed that, while their harvests were good, their profits were low due to the high price of their inputs. They have some to Kusamala hoping to learn about alternative farming methods that don't require expensive chemical inputs. Recognizing the many social and environmental challenges facing Malawi, Luke and Maurice would also like to explore new ways of working and living in harmony with nature both at Gospelink and in their home communities. Their ultimate goal is to make the farm at Gospelink one of the leading, large-scale permaculture sites in Malawi.

Welcome Maurice and Luke!

Staple crop success!

The past few months have seen the beginning of our staple field harvest. We say the beginning because, unlike typical mono-cropped maize fields that only get one harvest per year, we will continue to harvest pigeon pea, cassava and moringa throughout the dry season. Our 0.7-hectare field yielded 4.2 tons/hectare of maize and 1T/ha of groundnuts (compare to the Malawian averages of 1.4 and 0.8T/ha, respectively) in addition to sweet potatoes and pumpkins. This output will cover the Centre's maize and groundnut needs for our staff lunches all year long, further demonstrating the viability of permaculture in Malawi.

Announcing a partnership with DCA

Kusamala is pleased to announce a new partnership led by DanChurchAid and implemented by Kusamala, Churches Action in Relief and Development, and Christian Service Committee. The new project is funded by the Nordic Climate Facility and titled Mainstreaming climate-smart agriculture in solar irrigation schemes for sustainable local business development in Malawi. It will be implemented over the next two years in Lilongwe, Mzimba, Thyolo and Nsanje Districts. Kusamala will be working as a trainer of trainers in climate-smart agriculture, leading market research and training rural communities in Lilongwe.

Staff Spotlight: Rhoda Godfrey

Rhoda Godfrey joined Kusamala's food and nutrition team in June, 2012. She lives with her mother and sister in Lanscape, a village on the road between Kusamala and Lilongwe. For years, Rhoda and her family have supplemented their income by selling tomates and onions, which they cultivated intensively. After last year's Red Soil Project trainings, Rhoda began integrating permaculture techniques into her gardens and around her home. In addition to tomatoes and onions, Rhoda now grows pumpkins, sweet potatoes, beans, mustard greens, rape and maize. They also planted guava, avocado, lemon, papaya and custard apple trees that they will harvest in the coming years. In addition to significantly reducing household food costs, Rhoda is able to sell excess produce. When asked how this is affecting her community, Rhoda replies, "A lot of people are asking what I am doing and when I tell them they go back to their home and start making gardens. I know 3 people that have made their own gardens."
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