Quarterly Update from the Kusamala Institute of Agriculture & Ecology
July - September 2013

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Kusamala wins support for exciting climate smart agriculture project

Kusamala, in partnership with the James Hutton Institute and Climate Futures, has secured funding from the Scottish Government for a new three-year project titled "Climate Smart Agriculture for Rural Smallholders in Malawi." Expanding out from our demonstration centre as well as the communities in Dowa where we are currently implementing JANEEMO, this new project will provide training and support for the implementation of climate smart agriculture at community, district, and national level. The overall objective for "Climate Smart Agriculture" is to improve the economic and environmental sustainability of agriculture in Malawi and to increase smallholder farmer resilience to climate change impacts.

The project focus is threefold and includes: community outreach in rural Dowa that combines extension work in climate smart agriculture with community mapping and a film-based monitoring and evaluation program; a platform for increased communication between relevant stakeholders at the district level; and the improvement and expansion of Kusamala’s demonstration centre as a model and training centre for climate smart agriculture. Implemented over three years, we expect to directly benefit 1,500 farmers through our extension work and village clubs, increase stakeholder collaboration, and establish Kusamala as a centre of excellence for climate smart agriculture in Malawi.

Through "Climate Smart Agriculture," Kusamala will promote practices that integrate permaculture and agroecological principles for improved water and soil management, agroforestry, and crop diversification. Through an extensive data collection platform, we hope to quantitatively demonstrate the impacts these practices have on resilience to climate change, diet diversity, food security, and environmental health.

Keep checking our website and blog for more news on this exciting project! 

Visualizing participatory technologies

With the climate smart agriculture grant from the Scottish Government, Kusamala will be using exciting participatory technologies to design more resilient agricultural systems and to monitor and evaluate project impact.

One such methodology will be participatory video for monitoring and evaluation. In August, Sabine Hellman, a videographer and contractor for Climate Futures, joined our Scottish partners here in Malawi to pilot our film-based data collection process. In collaboration with Masankho Banda, a professional story teller and facilitator, she filmed a series of baseline interviews with future "Climate Smart Agriculture" project beneficiaries. While Masankho led the participants through a series of activities designed to increase comfort with the camera and openness to telling their story, Sabine captured the process on film. As the project progresses, the camera will be taken out of Sabine's hands and put in those of the community. The videos created by the community will be used to measure project impact, identify potential issues, and fluidly adapt the project to meet the needs of the participants.

A second participatory methodology in this project will incorporate GPS and GIS for community mapping. Led by the community, Kusamala will use these technologies to map resources and needs, providing a visual tool for climate smart planning. To support this effort, Kusamala will be partnering with one of our former interns, Austin Dunn, and his research partner, Julia Reynolds. The pair recently won a Young Explorers Grant from National Geographic Society to support Kusamala's work mapping ecosystem services. Additionally, this team of researchers has enlisted the support of Esri, the industry leader in GIS software. This support will raise awareness nationally and internationally on the important role sustainable agricultural practices can play in increasing climate resilience in Malawi and beyond.

New goodies at the Lilongwe Market

An important goal for Kusamala is to ensure long-term sustainability by increasing non-grant income. Trainingsapprenticeships, and farm sales are such independent revenue streams that contribute to our financial stability. Recently, staff and interns have been working hard to diversify this third stream - our farm products. The Lilongwe Farmers Market, hosted the last Saturday of the month at the Sanctuary Lodge, has given us a new venue to test our goods. In addition to vegetables and herbs, we now sell beautiful soaps (pictured above), fresh eggs, loofah sponges, fruit seedlings and we plan to add pepper jams, herbal teas, and honey. Come out and support us if you're in Lilongwe!

UNEP 1st Africa Conference

From August 20-21, Kusamala participated in the 1st AFRICA Food Security and Adaptation Conference in Nairobi, Kenya. Organized by UNEP and FAO, the conference focused on Harnessing Ecosystem based Approaches for Food Security and Climate Change Adaptation in Africa. Patronized by about 450 people from around the world, Chisomo Kamchacha presented on Kusamala's Red Soil Project partnership. The project implemented permaculture through household demonstrations in villages where our staff live. The presentation highlighted permaculture's potential to ensure household food security while improving ecosystem health. The conference was a good opportunity to network and share information; many organizations were interest in our work and potential collaborations.

Staff Spotlight: William Nkhunga

Hailing from Dowa district, William Nkhunga joined Kusamala in September as our new Tree Nursery & Medicinal Garden Manager. William attended Malawi's Natural Resources College where he studied Agriculture and Natural Resource Management and graduated in 2006. He comes to Kusamala with over 6 years of experience in agriculture extension, agroforestry and community development. William will be helping us to further develop our demonstrations and we are excited to welcome him to the team!
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