Changes of circumstances in 2014 led to a very successful year at Mkondezi First Primary School in the 2015-16 school year.

I moved from working at Chikale School after 5 years and re connected with Mkondezi First Primary School. I knew that the Deputy Head, Mr Robert Mwale, had recently attended a 12 day Permaculture Design Course (PDC) training at Butterfly and the Head Teacher, Mary had also received permaculture training.

I also received more help with the project after Kate Swatridge was in Malawi for the year after attending the same permaculture course at Butterfly.  I had always talked of the desire to up-scale the project and had talked to the Education Office here in Nkhata Bay who seemed interested.  The idea being that if any head teacher was capable and interested they should be able to benefit from this information to improve their lives.

There were also Malawi wide changes in telecommunications and transport which made things much easier to organise and carry out.

The first year at Mkondezi proved a great success with a number of positive results.  There were regular weekly sessions, held by trained teachers with a permaculture group of about 40 children.  Regular sessions took place in the garden and included practicals around the school.  The children also had their own plot which they were responsible for and could harvest from.  We saw interest also from other pupils, teachers and community members who came and took part in some of the sessions some weeks.  Assessing this success led me and Kate to believe we had a plan to upscale the project.

We came up with a plan of what we needed to offer in the programme;

  • 5 Day teacher training at Butterfly held by Friday Kamanga.
  • Set of 24 lesson plans for the teachers to work through, 8 per term.
  • Teacher meetings to discuss and learn
  • Resources, both gardening and stationary
  • Help with the open day

We also developed a plan for the open day at Mkondezi, where we would have 6 station around the school highlighting things they had done. A teacher would be at each station explaining what was happening and the pupils were the ones guiding the visitors around.  We needed to see if other people were interested in the programme and we needed interested teachers willing to do the work themselves if it was going to be possible to up-scale.  It would be impossible for us personally to be responsible for many different gardens as more schools joined so we first had to find the interested people and then develop a programme for them to work through effectively.

Open Day Programme

  • What is Permaculture?– an introduction to the ethics and principles, visual displays of the natural cycles in life, water, carbon, nutrient.
  • Permaculture garden- Feed your soil and it will feed you; mulching, compost, emphasising diversity.
  • Water management- Slow, Spread, Sink, Shade, how to raise your water table.
  • Using local resources– demonstrations of recycling and local resources and skills, tropical medicine and seeds.
  • Sustainable food production- eating a healthy diet and using solar energy to prepare food
  • What happens next?- outline of the programme and sign up

The open day at Mkondezi in May 2016 was a great success with more than 40 people attending.  Handouts were available for all visitors and at the end any school teachers were asked to sign up if they were interested in their school joining the programme.  It was explained what would be involved and stressed that there would be no monetary rewards only the sharing of information skills and seeds.

Three surrounding schools signed up for the programme beginning September 2016  (Year 2)  This meant we were busy and before the start of that term had to prepare the detailed lesson plans that we hoped would lead the teachers through the year.  Lesson plan example.

We also held a 5 day training held at Butterfly August 2016 by Friday Kamanga.  Two teachers from each school attended, as well as other Government and Butterfly workers and they covered topics such as ……..They did two practicals as well on site at the local school, and the healthy snacks provided give people an idea of what we are aiming for; for more Malawians to have access to a diverse and healthy diet.

We encouraged the teachers to work in the same way we had last year, with a regular session of theory and practical for a permaculture club of maximum 40 children.  Feedback from the teachers was essential so we held regular teacher meetings in order to get detailed feedback, we discussed the lesson plans themselves in detail and any problems that had occurred. These meetings were held alternately at different schools so that teachers could learn from what each other was doing.

While there was a move away from being hands on to working with the teachers to teach the programme, we often visited the schools as well and helped them out during a particular session.  We also provided the schools with some basic equipment like stationary, tools and seeds to help them work through the lesson plans.  These schools have very few resources, even chalk so it is hard for us to expect them to teach the lessons without some basic resources.

By the end of the school year in June 2017 (year 2) all four of the schools had done amazingly well and all of them wanted to take part in the visit to another site and also hold open days at their school.  Each open day was a massive success and over 100 people attended the four days; community members, government workers, teachers.  Three more schools signed up to say they wanted to take part in the programme so as we go into the third year we are working with 7 schools in the Nkhata Bay District.

We have also had interest from other schools, with one school from Mzimba District attending the project after funding themselves.  Also organisations that work in this field, like Scope and GIZ have also shown their interest in adopting the programme.  In order to manage this expansion as best as possible we will concentrate this year on further roll out and feedback and development of the lesson plans and teachers resources.  We want to be fully confident that the pack is as extensive as possible before we offer it further afield.

We can then analyse ways in which the programme could be further extended. This could be

  • Working with schools who have a hectare of land to develop a permaculture planting plan that will contribute towards the feeding of 1000 children through the school feeding programme.
  • Setting up a secondary school programme along the same lines so that when these children are at Secondary school we engage them in further environmental education.
  • Set up a school link programme with schools in the UK and elsewhere that are involved in environmental issues to make the connections worldwide about the importance of this work.
  • Establish an interactive website where participating schools can discuss the lesson plans and topics and learn from each other discussing their relevance in different areas.

The potential with this project is massive at the moment and after crowdfunding last year to expand to  4 schools and also learning to drive in order to visit them, it is clear that even to finish this year with seven schools we will need to fundraise more money.  If the programme keeps snowballing then we would need to raise more year on year.  By developing some strong links and support now and getting more volunteers involved in the project at this important stage then we have the potential to reach many in Malawi, who could benefit their own health and their situation.

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