By Kate Berrisford on August 16, 2012, Green Africa Directory
In the context of Malawi’s food security, development and environmental sustainability challenges and needs, the Kusamala Institute of Agriculture & Ecology (Kusamala) is tackling these issues by working with communities through permaculture training programs and reforestation initiatives. Permaculture means “permanent agriculture” and they believe the country could improve its economy and environment by focusing on growing a variety of food around people’s homes and diversifying their diets.
Malawi is a country rich in agricultural diversity – with over 500 documented food species, an all-year growing season and the world’s 9th largest lake. Its economy is centered around agriculture which accounts for over 90% of its export earnings, with over 80% of Malawi’s population practicing agriculture. However, Malawi is one of the Least Developed Countries in Africa and according to the United Nations, “two thirds of the population live below the national poverty line and more than one in five people live in ultra poverty – unable to afford basic minimum food requirements.”
Kusamala promotes permaculture as a means to increase environmental sustainability, food security, and improved nutrition throughout Malawi. Initially founded in 2009 as Nature’s Gift Permaculture, Kusamala is a training and demonstration NGO that showcases permaculture and agro-ecology as a means to enhance agricultural yields, improve land use, increase environmental stewardship and improve nutrition in Malawi.
Since its inception in 2009, Kusamala has focused its efforts on conducting trainings in food and nutrition security, resilient farming systems, and adaptable livelihood strategies at the community level. In addition to trainings and outreach, Kusamala has partnered with several local and international organizations on large projects throughout Malawi. Some of these partnership projects include working with farmers groups on value-chain creation and market diversification, creating sustainable agriculture demonstration sites, and the establishment of an apprentice program.
Permaculture offers key benefits to smallholder farmers in Malawi, as it enables communities to efficiently use small pieces of land on which to grow food and has potential to restore soil fertility and health, enhance crop diversity and produce crops suited to local conditions.
Kusamala provides a working example of household-level nutrition security through its “memo” garden and its ‘commercial market garden’, which provides income for the NGO, and demonstrates the economic potential of applied sustainable agriculture methods. The Centre offers a range of courses focused on permaculture design, ecological sanitation, and natural earth building and thatching. It also offers a range of educational activities including an Apprenticeship Programme, which focuses on teaching Malawians how to implement these principles on a community level, and tours for local schools.
“building a food secure future for all Africans requires focus and action in critical areas – from increasing the productivity of smallholder farmers to advancing nutrition among children, building resilient communities and sustainable food systems, and empowering women and the rural poor. Success in these areas will come only if we view food security as a challenge that extends beyond sectoral mandates and reaches across the national development agenda and if we better integrate humanitarian and development work to strengthen the resilience of people and their communities to even the most severe crisis.”
This forward states the heart of Kusamala and why it was founded. Their vision is to strengthen Malawi and through their programs and initiatives, they are doing it one community and individual at a time.