The Malawi Schools Permaculture Clubs (MSPC) is empowering Malawi’s rural youth by teaching them permaculture techniques to improve their everyday lives not only for themselves, but their community and ultimately the world. In recognition of its endeavours, the MSPC, which now supports over 300 children, has been chosen as one of three fledgling enterprises to win a 2018 Lush Spring Prize Young Projects Award, and with it £20,000 to expand its operation to help more students discover regenerative and self-sustainable farming.
Set up in 2015 by permaculture experts Josie Redmonds and Kate Swatridge, the MSPC was created to support primary school teachers in the Nkhata Bay district, in Malawi’s rural north, to run after school clubs to teach students how to grow produce in harmony with nature. Right now, there are around 20 Malawian teachers involved as volunteers. The project kicked off with a pilot at the Mkondezi Primary School, which saw each child benefit from their own plot of land to learn on and eventually harvest food from.
“Things went very well,” Josie reflects. “Attendance was high and the children and teachers were keen.”
The trial showed that four crucial components would be necessary for a school to participate in the programme; training for teachers, a syllabus, relevant infrastructure, and willing pupils and teachers. In July 2016, the MSPC helped the school hold a Permaculture Open Day, which saw people from the community and other local schools attend, which resulted in three schools signing up to the project.
“That’s when the programme officially began!” Kate beams. “We offered all four schools permaculture training for the volunteering teachers, a weekly programme pack, monthly meetings for teachers, support visits during club sessions, and provided basic resources such as plants and trees, hand tools, and stationery. This worked very well and at the end of the year, every school held an Open Day for their community.”
Now in its third year the MSPC works with nine schools, with many more on a waiting list. “We believe that this region is a place where applying permaculture thinking and practices goes an especially long way towards truly sustainable living,” Josie says. “These nine schools have different physical and social circumstances, opportunities and challenges, and are all embracing permaculture to help improve and regenerate their environment.”
According to Kate, the Lush Spring Prize will give MSPC a platform to increase the quality and reach of the programme, so that more children can benefit in the coming years: “The Spring Prize funding means the difference between just doing a pilot project and being able to plan ahead for the next two years.”
More specifically, the team intends to employ a project coordinator for schools in the Nkhata Bay district where MSPC is based, purchase a vehicle, develop the programme so it can be used by other organisations and schools in different areas of Malawi, cultivate a second year of activities for children who want to continue learning after the initial year, and build a long term strategy.
“For the school year starting September 2018, we expect to be working with between 18 and 30 schools in our district, and five schools from other areas of Malawi,” Josie reveals. “Our project grows by ‘word of mouth’, and has more than doubled in size each year. We want to be able to meet the demand from schools wanting to sign up, so we have a lot of work to do to get ready to scale up without losing the essence of what makes the project successful.”
Check out the MSPC’s next development at https://web.facebook.com/MalawiSchoolsPermacultureClubs/
The Lush Spring Prize, hosted by Lush and co-operative Ethical Consumer Research Association, offers a £200,000 prize fund and other support activities, to help projects around the world that are working towards environmental and social regeneration.
Regeneration illustration by David McMillan.