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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 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. 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 work needed to implement this plan but they will also be the main beneficiaries. The fourth participating partner is Tiyeni, a development group who specialise in achieving increased small-scale farm production by improving soil conditions there. See for details. Thus, there are four participants, each with a distinct role in this programme.



Malawi is a peaceful but economically poor country. In the U.N. Human Development Index [HDI] it is ranked 169th out of 191. with most countries below Malawi either locked in political instability/war or located in the Sahel. It is estimated that some 70% of the local population are living on less than $2.15/day with the majority of the rural population 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 latest World Bank data mentions the following [see] :

  •  in 2022 expected economic growth was projected to be 0.9%, compared to 2.8% in 2021;

  • the year-on-year inflation rate was 26.7% in February 2023, with a sharp rise in the price of basic foods including maize during the previous twelve months;

  • the Reserve Bank of Malawi devalued the Malawi Kwacha against the US dollar by 25% in May 2022;

  • in 2022 the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee projected that 3.8 million people, about 20% of Malawi’s population would go hungry between November 2022 and March 2023;

  • such figures show the consequences of climatic shocks, both unseasonal drought and tropical cyclone damage, low agricultural productivity and slow structural transformation

The above figures illustrate the national economic context at the time of SGG’s first field visit to ZFL and Nankhunda village in Zomba District. They do not take into consideration the severe disruption to life and the economy caused by Cyclone Freddy in March 2023. At the same time the population of Malawi is increasing at 2.6% per annum, which means that the country’s population will double in the next generation, thereby hugely increasing the pressure on land and soil resources. Thus, progress in Malawi requires several 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. 


Actions have already been taken towards these goals. Those actions are mainly concerned with forest restoration, which is crucial where income is based on ecotourism, but also vital for local community water supply. 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;

  • spot-planting of trees, especially indigenous species which will foster an improved habitat for local fauna;

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

Further details of these activities can be found at The SGG-ZombaTreez programme proposal incorporates three different sets of activities. These are:

  1. training farmers to use the Tiyeni method of ‘deep bed farming’. See 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 will bring the local farming community ‘on board’ and gain community support for other agricultural & environmental improvements;

  2. it is mainly the traditional food crops [maize, cassava 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 mothers and young children. 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’ in Year 2 of the programme;

  3. the third activity will be the continuation of the forest restoration work. The main change from the previous work is that the extent of the restoration work has been increased. Also, some well established trees in the forest will be used for carbon capture income. 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 indigenous forest cover.


As there are so many uncertainties about the future, the budget for the full 5 year programme can only be an estimate at £29,820. What we think we need for the October 2021-September 2026 period to ensure measurable and significant progress is the following:

  1.  £3,600 for Tiyeni training of 80 farmers in ‘deep bed’ farming methods;

  2.  £2,250 to establish 3 village community plots which demonstrate intensive fruit & vegetable growing using permaculture & agroforestry methods;

  3. £4,800 to facilitate the adoption of kitchen gardens using the above methods to 150 farmers;

  4. £8,000 to facilitate forest restoration work. This figure is based on a target of 40,000 new trees, either planted or growing naturally by rewilding in the Zomba Forest area;

  5. £1,000 to be reserved for carbon capture planting;

  6. £8,000 to be used to support the planting of 32,000 agroforestry trees on villagers’ plots;

  7. £750 for contingency purposes, such as cyclone damage repairs;

  8. 5% of the total of the above [£28,400] for general administrative purposes [£1,420];

  9.  so the estimated budget for the full 5 years is £29,820, which is approximately £6,000 annual investment for the benefit of several hundred households resident in and around Nankhunda village.


At present the partners in this 5 year project have only 44% of the budget required for funding this environment & community development programme. We therefore invite those trusts concerned about relief of poverty & community development to contribute to this project which will bring significant sustainable progress to some very underprivileged people.

Paul Keeley

Sustainable Global Gardens

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