Community Demonstration Garden Initiative

Kusamala’s commercial garden with the outdoor classroom in the background.

From September to the end of December 2012, Liz and Benjamin, directors of The Red Soil Project (RSP) participated in a permaculture internship program at the Kusamala Institute of Agriculture and Ecology (Kusamala) in Lilongwe, Malawi.  Living on the Kusamala farm and working with local small plot farmers allowed us to see the potential for permaculture to positively affect local development.

Benjamin and Liz on graduation day for The Red Soil Project training program at Kusamala.


During our four month stay, RSP also started a partnership with Kusamala to offer training and assist in the design of eleven home demonstration gardens in the surrounding farming communities.  The goal of this project is to build local knowledge through training and assist in the design of home gardens that can be used to demonstrate new farming concepts to people living in the village.  The families that received the training are becoming local leaders who are responsible for passing on their knowledge and skill as well as sharing available resources like manure, compost or seeds.

Deciding to focus on the home garden was a way to introduce permaculture in a manageable sized project, but also provided families with a means of food security.  In Malawi, the coming of the rains actually signals the beginning of the regions hunger season.  When the rains begin, the dimba vegetable gardens that most families have along the banks of the river are flooded and the maize and staple crops are both newly planted.  Teaching people the skills to convert the bare land around their homes to vegetable production means there’s no need to carry water and the vegetables are right outside their door.  It’s really inspiring to see the changes!

This is a “before” photo of Rhoda’s yard taken in early October. She has some established trees to use as fencing. Keep an eye on that papaya tree in the forefront.


This photo of Rhoda’s yard was taken in late December.  Notice the papaya tree in the upper right hand corner? That’s the same tree as in the photo above. She used her old mosi-nets were used as fencing to keep out roaming livestock.

The garden design consultations were completed by the students and trainers during October and November.  The consultations were conducted with individual families to understand the specific needs and challenges of each design.  The designs were then partially constructed by the entire group on garden implementation days including Kusamala’s apprentice students and Benjamin and Biswick.  Benjamin and Biswick lead these work days and also used them as training opportunities for everyone involved.

On a group garden implementation Maureen is digging a water diversion ditch that will direct runoff water into two fruit tree basins.


Garden implementation days were hard work and loads of fun for everyone.

Biswick teaching class in the village.

As the project advances RSP will be focusing on finding new low cost permaculture designs, continuing training in permaculture and monitoring the success of this project.  To hear more about this project as we move forward into 2013 make sure to follow our blog page.











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