Permaculture

Some of the toughest challenges facing Malawi relate to climate change, deforestation and food insecurity.

While education has always been the main focus of Inspire Malawi, we recently decided to extend our work into permaculture. Permaculture aims to enhance biodiversity and reduce human impact on the environment by implementing intelligent systems of land management. 

We have started this work by creating a beautiful community garden at Mlanda School, through which we hope to teach young Malawians about how to look after their environment and grow food. We hope to build on this work by starting a tree-planting project and nurturing an orchard in the school grounds.

All of our work at Inspire Malawi is carried out with the consent and close cooperation of the communities we hope to assist. 

The permaculture project has been no exception, and in March 2016 we held a community meeting between our Founder, Michelle, Mlanda Headteacher Mr Tembwe, the school's committee, PTA, council, chiefs, teachers and the Reverend Chisaoka to discuss how to set up our first permaculture garden. It was agreed that the project would be housed within the school compound and attended by the children from Standard 1 right up to Standard 8 learners. Each week, the children would have practical lessons within the garden, learning how to tend to plants, followed up by a weekly theory lesson. 

A fence would be constructed to protect the garden from goats and, over time, a compost, nursery, green house would be built. Inspire Malawi also agreed to train two men at Kusamala, Lilongwe, in permaculture design - one, a local Inspire Malawi volunteer called George Dzikambani, the other Mr Yollam, a School Committee member. In return, George and Mr Yollam agreed to volunteer in the garden each week and oversee student activities. Kusamala Institute of Agriculture and Ecology is a non-governmental organization that promotes agroecology systems in Malawi through demonstration, consultation, education, outreach and advocacy. 

Now that the garden has been established and is thriving, its produce is being sold locally by the school children, and any funds raised are being used to buy school supplies such as chalk, pens and mathematical equipment.

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Two volunteers from UK, Rachel West and Miranda Cunis spent two weeks volunteering at Mlanda in June/July 2016 and kept a diary of their activities.

Monday 27th June

We observed and assisted Standard 7 pupils transplant two beds of cabbage seedlings and rape. George discussed his desire to mobilise a youth group to help spread the project outside the school and into the community.

Tuesday 28th June

The chairman of the school management committee, Mr Masese brought in some organic seeds from home. Standard 6 children started preparing four ‘basin‘ beds for transplanting mustard and for planting tomatoes. Pigeon peas are planted with the maize to act as nitrogen fixers for the soil.

Wednesday 29th June

George gave his first theory lesson to learners in Standard 5. Many pupils showed prior knowledge of agriculture but not permaculture. We started a log book to record work undertaken in the garden.

Thursday 30th June

At 2pm there was a community sensitisation led by George and a youth group of local volunteers. It was delivered in Diwa Village, neighbouring the school, and was attended by the chief and village elders. There were songs about permaculture, drama sketches and poems. The aim was to galvanize the community to help care for the garden during the school holidays.


Since Rachel and Miranda's trip, the garden has been thriving. Materials are now being organised to build a green house and fruit trees saplings are being collected to create an orchard in January. When visiting in April 2016, Bishop’s Stortford College volunteers planted 200 indigenous trees on the land surrounding the school. As they grow, it is hoped they will help protect the school buildings from strong winds and prevent soil erosion.

Many of the crops are starting to mature, and we are now organising a school ‘shop’ and a ‘farmer’s market‘ at which the Standard 8 pupils will sell the produce. Having a feel for running a small business, and seeing the project come full circle has been incredible. Profits will be used to buy school supplies. On 3rd September the pupils harvested the rape leaves and made 5,200mk profit. Much of the produce was bought by people from the nearby Health Centre. Money raised was then spent locally in Lizulu village on white chalk for the teachers.