Work Update

HANDOVER Agriculture Assessment Malawi December 2017

Lucy Noble
Lucy Noble | Dec 22, 2017 | in Agriculture Assessment

The Malawi Agriculture Assessment Team came close to moving mountains this month when presented with the challenge of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of Zero Hunger. In order to gain a deeper understanding of the issues faced by smallholder farmers in Malawi, the team focused on conducting preliminary farmer and market research which was fed back into our working permaculture blueprint prototype.

The results of previous teams, combined with the interviews we conducted with farmers this month, led us to identify the following pains:

  • A lack of access to knowledge surrounding improved farming methods results in poor land utilisation, which in turn undermines productive crop yields and fails to address current industry inefficiencies.

  • Constant mono-cropping of staple crops (maize) has led to wide scale soil degradation, a lack of nutritional variety and inefficiencies within the market (e.g. creation of a “maize mafia”).

  • Farming systems, and thus practices, require fertiliser for optimum yields, however, many farmers lack access to the capital required to purchase fertiliser and thus farm productivity is restricted.

  • Current best practice does very little in the way of natural pest management and as such there is a reliance on pesticides.

The teams ideate stage led to securing a plot of land in the village of Nsambudzi which was seen as integral to the progression of the project. It is acknowledged that there is clearly going to be gaps in our knowledge at this point of the project that would benefit from further empathising and ideation. However, with Agriculture comes patience, and time is of the essence during project so to make the most of our time over summer, it was unanimously agreed that regardless of the direction, a farm prototype was imperative for the future of the project.

The prototype design utilises an integrated permaculture system, consisting of companion cropping, integrated pest management (push-pull methods) and crop rotation with nitrogen fixing legumes. Once suitable methods have been identified and refined, they may be offered as a product to smallholder farmers – at this stage this is likely to be a farm blueprint, as well as an ongoing consulting service.

The purpose of the experimental farm is to test the viability of the current value proposition, which is to provide “proven, effective agricultural methods that increase productivity of smallholder farmers”. Therefore, our current understanding of alleviating the pains experienced by Malawian smallholder farmers is in its early stages.

The Appendix and Business Plan are attached. Project Progress Report can be found here:

edited on Dec 23, 2017 by Andrew Vild

Alessanda Oliveri Dec 24, 2017

Not sure how viable this could be; as I understand purchasing fertilizer is expensive within Malawi and may be of cost to the project. I was wondering whether it would be an option to use a compost system, say you use the the food wastes from the project house to create an experiment regarding whether a compost solution would be best fitted to this context. I understand there would be logistics regarding how much waste each farm was creating out within Nsambudzi, which I assume would not be a significant amount, but maybe they could do a collective town compost system? Either way I'm excited to see how the farm does over the next few months!


Amber Johnston 11 months ago

Status label added: Work Update