SGG - TREEZ CO-OPERATION IN MALAWI

We have for some time hoped to extend the success of our horticultural schemes in West Kenya to Malawi which is a much poorer country.  As we  had received sufficient funding for Kenya for 2021 we looked for a project partner in Malawi to help us set up similar projects there. It was particularly important to have a local partner as Covid travel restrictions confined us to the UK. Zomba Treez was found as a suitable partner as they have already been carrying out community and forest restoration work. See their website www.zombatreez.com  

An agreement was reached for a five year programme to be operated on a year to year basis as funds become available.  This proramme will focus on improvement of soil conditions to increase farm yields, crop diversification by promoting kitchen gardens using permaculture & agroforestry methods, and forest restoration as a basis for alternative employment outside agriculture. 

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Local farmers collecting trees from thier nursery

Zomba Treez are already active in forest restoration, which is clearly crucial to a lodge where income is based on ecotourism, but also vital for the water catchments which all the communities rely upon.  That forest restoration work includes:

  • working with local community groups to reduce continued damage to the forest by suppressing wildfires in the forest area;

  • spot-planting of trees, with special attention to indigenous species which will foster an improved habitat for local fauna;

  • encouraging rewilding.  This has proved to be a more effective mechanism for spreading tree cover than tree-planting, and it is achieved mainly by fire suppression.

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Fire spreads quickly through trees

Bare hillside left after fire

In addition to an extension of the forest restoration work the project seeks to improve food security in the local community by improved farming methods.  The two improvements are the adoption of deep bed farming for staple crops and kitchen gardens for vegetable production.

  • Farmers will be trained n the Tiyeni method of Deep Bed Farming (DBF) to increase yields  See www.tiyeni.org for details.  This method involves the breakup of the hardpan layer found under regularly cultivated fields.  This will allow much better root penetration and higher rates of rainfall infiltration, especially when combined with a range of permaculture techniques.  A study of the impact of DBF on hunger among 560 Malawian farmers demonstrated that families using DBF consume an extra meal per day compared to farmers growing crops conventionally. These farmers experienced an average increase in crop yields of 146 percent rise in crop yields that is, yields were roughly two and a half times what they were before adoption of DBF. All farming families in the group eradicated severe food insecurity within six years.

  • Intensive ‘kitchen gardens’ accompanied by agroforestry planting next to the farmer’s home in order will provide additional vegetables & fruits to improve the local diet, especially for children. Zomba is also famous for its cultivation of various berries which is provides an important to the neighbouring communities.  A ‘demonstration plot’ located at a supporting institution within the local community will be developed as an aid to training farmers;