As part of our ongoing relationship with leadership development programme The International Exchange, W+K Creative Ben is spending a month working with the Kusamala Institute in Malawi.
I arrived in Malawi on Sunday afternoon to begin my month long project helping out at The Kusamala Institute of Agriculture & Ecology, a permaculture NGO based in Lilongwe. They are a young charity with lots of big ideas about tackling issues related to nutrition, agriculture and biodiversity. They want to start being less dependent on external funding by offering money-generating services based around permaculture. This is where I’ve been asked to help them out, working on branding Kusamala and packaging their projects in a way that allows them to tell more people about the work they do and the services they offer.
I’ve spent this week getting to know all the different things this charity does, asking a lot of questions along the way.
I started by tagging along on one of Kusamala’s permaculture courses, aimed at teaching people how to implement sustainable agricultural systems. The basic principle mirrors the way a forest’s ecosystem works to create a range of harvestable crops that don’t need fertilizer, pesticides or soil maintenance. (It’s a lot more interesting/complicated than that, you can read more about it here).
I then spent a lot of time meeting some really interesting people doing amazing things both inside this organization and in partner companies. In particular, I’ve been interested in the work that ‘Agro-Tech’ is doing over here, looking at mapping systems to monitor aid distribution and land productivity using a combination of bar codes and GPS mapping.
Finally on Friday of this week I went out into the Dowa district to visit some of the 15000 farms that Kusamala supports through the permaculture farming initiative. It was incredible to see rural Malawi and also realize the dependency on government subsidized Maize and Tobacco crops. This was the first time that I could see the benefits of the work that Kusamala does, with noticeably better crop yields and a wider diversity of produce. (More about this on my blog).
What originally seemed like a fairly straight forward task just keeps getting bigger and more complicated when you start factoring in donor partners, other NGO’s working in the same space, different needs for aid and also the way that funding is structured. There are a lot of things that don’t make sense and it’s clear to see that my confusion this week has been shared by most people in tis sector for years, if not decades.
So that’s where I’ve go to. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve asked a lot of questions, but I think I have a few more to go before I can start to actually make a useful contribution to this charity.
Till next time…