The basic purpose of this project is to foster local community development at the same time as improvements are made to the local environment upon which the community depends for its well-being.
The project described below is based on an agreement, or informal partnership, between the UK-registered development group Sustainable Global Gardens [reg. no. 1116243] and Zomba TREEZ, who are based at Zomba Forest Lodge and who are the partners responsible for local implementation in Malawi. It is hoped that this partnership and framework of development activities can be continued for five years, but in practice it will become a series of one year action plans which will be adjusted according to rapidly changing circumstances. It should be acknowledged there are two other partners who are both essential for the success of this programme. One is the village community living in close proximity to the Zomba Forest Lodge. These villagers will undertake much of the time & labour needed to implement this plan but they will also be the main beneficiaries of this programme. The fourth partner participating in this programme is Tiyeni, who are a development group based in both the UK and Malawi. They specialise in achieving increased small-scale farm production by improving soil conditions there. Thus, there are four complementary participants, each with a distinct role in this programme, but this document is essentially an agreement, meant to last five years, between SGG and Zomba TREEZ.
Malawi is a poor country. In the U.N. Human Development Index [HDI] it is ranked 174th out of 189, with the other countries below Malawi either locked in political instability/war or are located in the Sahel. It is estimated that some 70% of the local population are living on less than $1.90/day with 90% being engaged in subsistence farming. The main food crops are maize, which rapidly drains soil fertility when grown under a mono-cropping system, and cassava, which can provide bulk food but is of low nutritional value. The main cash crop is tobacco, often Burley leaf tobacco which WHO regards as particularly damaging to health and so is trying to discourage. Currently tobacco accounts for about half of Malawi’s export earnings. At the same time the population of Malawi is increasing at more than 3% per annum, which means that the country’s population will double in approximately 20 years, thereby hugely increasing the pressure on land and soil resources. This is reflected in the widespread deforestation and the dwindling of forest cover.
Furthermore, as an inland African state with very limited mining & manufacturing opportunities, Malawi must rely on rural improvements to bring progress to its population.
Thus, progress in Malawi requires a whole raft of agricultural and environmental issues to be addressed. This particular project 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. It will certainly require a five-year period before the full fruits of this approach can be evaluated.
Actions have already been taken towards some of these goals. Those actions are mainly concerned with 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 has three main strands i.e.
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.
Further details of these activities can be found at https://www.zombatreez.com This project, however, takes matters further by promoting both agroforestry tree-planting on villagers’ plots combined with new approaches to food production. At this point in time we think that such actions of direct benefit to the local community will encourage those villagers to continue making sustainable improvements both in their own farming practices but also in terms improved protection of the local environment.
This particular proposal incorporates three main sets of activities. These are:
training farmers within the local community in the Tiyeni method of ‘deep bed farming’. See www.tiyeni.org for details. The basis of the Tiyeni method is 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. The outcome of this extra work by farmers is a much higher yield. SGG has already witnessed the success of this method, and we believe this Tiyeni training will bring the local farming community ‘on board’ and gain community support for other agricultural & environmental improvements;
it is anticipated that it will be mainly the traditional food crops [maize, cassava, beans etc] which will be grown in the improved Tiyeni fields. Thus, there is also a need for much more intensive ‘kitchen gardens’ accompanied by agroforestry planting next to the farmer’s home in order to 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. It is expected that the bulk of this component will develop later than the Tiyeni training, and is likely to start with a ‘demonstration plot’ located at a supporting institution within the local community;
the third activity will be the continuation of the forest restoration work which has been implemented in the last few years and which has already been mentioned. The main change from the previous work is that the implementation covers a wider proportion of the Zomba Forest Reserve. Also investigations will be made to assess the potential of the forest for carbon capture planting for climate change mitigation purposes. There are few employment opportunities other than farming in this locality, and nature tourism is one of them. The future realisation of this opportunity is heavily reliant on increased extension of forest cover dominated by indigenous species within Zomba district.
At the present there are several possible disruptions to the above plans [e.g. covid, unreliable rains, unpredicted wildfire etc], so the 3 above components will be implemented at different times and places according to needs as they arise. Nevertheless, it is intended to start all components of the programme within the next 12 months.
As there are so many uncertainties about the next few years financial budgets for the next three years can only be estimated approximations.
What we think we need for the 2021-2024 period to ensure measurable and significant progress is the following:
£3,600 for Tiyeni training of 100 farmers. This is based on Tiyeni’s publicised cost of £36 for the training of an individual farmer. Such farmers are usually trained in cohorts of 20, and sometimes the basic Tiyeni method can be adopted without further training. However, this is risky and crucial techniques may be only half followed, so we would prefer to arrange for a total of 5 sets of training for a total of 100 farmers;
£750 to set up a community demonstration plot which illustrates fruit & vegetable growing using permaculture & agroforestry methods;
£2,000 to facilitate the adoption of kitchen gardens using the above methods to 20 lead farmers within the community;
£3,000 to facilitate forest restoration work. This figure is based on a target of 15,000 new trees, either planted or growing naturally by rewilding in the Zomba Forest area;
£1,000 to be reserved for carbon capture planting if it is agreed during SGG’s monitoring visit that the Zomba Forest Lodge locality has the potential for such planting;
£500 for contingency purposes;
5% of the total of the above [£10,850] for general administrative purposes [£540];
So the estimated budget for the next 3 years is £11,390