A Visit To The Malawi Savory Hub

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Written by Malawi Savory Hub Leader, Molly Cheatum

In little over a year the Kusamala Institute of Agriculture and Ecology (Kusamala) has seen tremendous benefits from being a part of the Savory Network. Kusamala was part of six other organizations in the 2015 cohort and from the trainings and partnerships we have developed, proposals have been written, budgets improved, existing partnerships strengthened and potentially new partnerships on the horizon. There is no doubt in my mind that opportunities will only increase through this growing global network.

WHO ARE KUSAMALA?

Kusamala is a Malawian NGO that promotes holistic management practices founded on permaculture design and agroecology principles. Kusamala supports Malawi District Agricultural Extension Services Systems (DAESS) to reach the most vulnerable smallholder farmers on-the-ground providing knowledge and training on innovative solutions to improve food and diet diversity, soils, water management, and livelihoods.

A TASTE OF OUR COMMUNITY WORK

One of the tools we have been using to monitor our community projects is participatory video. Last week our team screened 7 videos showcasing story films created by participants and explaining their issues, changes, and successes throughout the project. It was a particularly exciting and emotional time to see a hundred people laughing and clapping for their colleagues on screen.

It was during one of the question and answer sessions that I was reminded how important holistic livestock management is and so proud that we are a part of this. One of the participants answered a question about what they think is needed next after working with us for two years on soil management, crop diversity, and home gardens. He said, “We need more livestock and we need to learn how to manage them”. Every film screening question and answer session mentioned livestock and farmers consistently said how much manure is needed in their fields

Participatory Video Screening in Mthuzi Village, Dowa District, Malawi

TIMING IS EVERYTHING

Tre’ Cates the COO of the Savory Institute visited Kusamala earlier this month for four days and we visited a community with the Hunger Project. They have created a community centre in a rural area near Ntcheu and although they have found alternative forms of income to support the community centre like milling maize, providing service to groups that come, and offering health services, there is little attention paid to managing the land properly.

Hunger Project in Ntcheu, Malawi with Molly Cheatum (Kusamala), Rowlands Kaotcha (The Hunger Project), Tre’ Cates (Savory), and Anesa Kalonga (The Hunger Project. Anesa also visited one of our PV film screenings.)

Tre’ and I talked about this extensively and also met with the owners of Kapani Meats and the CEO of Nyama World. Both of these businesses have efficient operations, but Nyama World’s plan for working with the community is particularly worth noting. Their program is focused on creating a hybrid beef (Bonsmara and Zebu) cattle with 4,000 smallholder farmers in northern Malawi. They train communities on cattle nutrition and health, husbandry and calving and artificial insemination techniques.

Both the Hunger Project and Nyama World acknowledge that the ecological restoration aspect of their projects is missing. Hence, the timing – Tre’s visit catapulted us into these meetings and there is a demand for trainings that can address these complex issues and meld them into projects already running and businesses thinking long-term and innovatively.

FUTURE THOUGHTS

Kusamala wants to work with both communities and businesses that are interested in developing not only profit, but also building social and ecological capital. There is now, more than ever, a critical need for thinking that addresses complexity in our everyday lives. It is evident for the smallholder farmer that climate change can take their entire livelihood in one season, or market prices can fail in one year. These results are devastating when you are living on the brink. They know the practices they are doing are not resilient, or sustainable, but they lack options. Holistic management can address this over the long-term and the demand is there and only rising.

For more information on Kusamala visit http://www.kusamala.org/

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