PERMACULTURE SCHOOL GARDENS
Over the last 15 years we have introduced Permaculture principles to many schools in the Nkhata Bay District. Permaculture is a brilliant way to make the school a welcoming and homely environment for the children, and if the teachers commit to a weekly session out in the garden with the children then a lot can be achieved.
Using the garden as a learning tool for the children has proved very successful, both for food production, environmental and health issues; the sessions are very practical. Josie has a deep passion for the environment and throughout her time here has trained many teachers, Government officials and community members. Permaculture Design Courses have also been held at Butterfly, a more detailed programme, but one which also offered the chance to local community members and Government workers to get involved in the learning.
Two of the schools that we work with have linked with Scope, a regional Permaculture training initiative, and this means they benefit from lots of training opportunities and link ups with other schools in the country doing permaculture. It offers the potential to bring back ideas and resources that can be tried locally.
A really successful year, 2015-16, with Mkondezi Primary School saw the local programme naturally expanding. Myself and Kate Swatridge tried to isolate the factors that had made that year successful and thought how we could replicate those factors for as many interested teachers as possible. Mkondezi held an open day in May 2016, explaining what they had been doing during the year and inviting other interested schools to join in the programme It was a great success and three more schools signed up, subsequent open days in 2017 and 2018 saw 5 and 6 more schools join, meaning that we are currently working with 15 schools in the District. More detail on this expanding programme can be seen in Malawi School Permaculture Clubs (MSP) , below.
There is also the potential to expand the project in different ways at different schools. Both Mkondezi and Limphasse Schools have access to a hectare of land, and could work towards producing food, through permaculture principles, directly for the school-feeding program. At Mkondezi there is also chance to renovate the empty but sturdy workshop buildings there at the school, which are old home economic and carpentry workshops. This would allow both nutritional lessons linked to the garden and also carpentry skills training.
All the permaculture garden incorporate moringa, ginger, turmeric plants into the gardens further work could be done with nutritional cooking lessons incorporating these plants. Sessions at the schools could be complimented by nutritional snacks cooked on site.
A recent link to Africa Direct has seen the potential of small build projects happening at the MSPC Schools. Looking which schools are most in need there is the potential for classroom blocks, compost toilets or other essential building to be built. The first build will happen in June when a builder will come to Nkhata Bay, complete a small build and assess schools for future collaboration. Expanding to do other alternative technologies like the rainwater harvester and solar cookers, we hope to increase community awareness of environmental issues and volunteers could help bring in these relevant skills into the network we are forming here in Nkhata Bay.