Hi everyone! My name is Bright Msku and I am the coordinator for Empower Malawi’s school projects. I’m writing this blog to share an update regarding a educational visit we made with two school teams. Before I dive in, here’s a bit of context…
As of mid-July 2018, Empower Malawi partnered with two primary schools, Dwalala and Mitula, to initiate sustainable schools’ projects. Both schools are in the Kasungu District of Malawi. Dwalala has an enrolment of over 720 students while Mitula has over 900 students . Our project model has four components which bring our permaculture design approach to life – access to renewable energy, a sustainable meal program, eco-sanitation, and rainwater harvesting. All these components work in harmony to improve wellbeing and learning outcomes. Since starting work with these two schools, we have achieved so much! Both now have access to solar electricity that helps students to study at night. We have also brought eco-sanitation toilets to both schools by constructing 3 urinals and 2 composting toilets at each school. Furthermore, the installation of water harvesting that utilizes the roofs of school blocks enables each school to harvest up to 5000 litres through their water tanks. This water helps students clean classrooms, have water for hygiene purposes and irrigate parts of the garden. Rainwater harvesting is also used to control the extent of soil erosion as a result of heavy rainfall.
Current situation at both schools
We are currently working on the implementation of a school feeding program as one of the project components we implement in schools. To achieving this we collaborate with parents from the local community to grow enough to establish a breakfast program. These projects start with intensive education in sustainable agricultural methods (permaculture), this involves training about composting, mulching, intercropping , land and water management. We provide maize seeds, soybean seeds and fertilizers to parents, who in turn they grow these crops in preparation for the program. While the aim is for these crops to be grown entirely free of inorganic fertilisers, ou approach is to phase them out gradually. As local farmers are highly accustomed to using fertilisers, we adopt a gradual approach, showing them through evidence why organic approaches are superior in the long-run.
In just under a year, Dwalala has grown 4 acres of maize and 2 acres of soybeans while Mitula has grown 3 acres of maize and 1.5 acres of soybeans. We have also constructed the kitchen at Mitula and will soon be proceeding with the same work to Dwalala School in preparation for the launch of their school feeding programs. Both schools are expected to start harvesting maize and soybeans at the end of May or early June.
Purpose of the educational visit
Empower Malawi focuses on capacity building in order to better ensure that projects are community-led and geared for the long-term. Hence, community members receive different training activities including education visits to other schools. This visit was mainly organised so that staff and community members from Dwalala and Mitula could learn from what other schools are doing to sustainably manage their school feeding programs in their respective areas. The intention was that it serves as a source of inspiration and practical lessons as each of these schools emmark on launching their own school feeding programs.
We collaborate with different stakeholders that contribute to the functioning of each school. In this regard participants from different committees were selected to go on this educational visit. The visting teams comprised of chiefs, as the ones who steer development in their villages, school and management committees (SMCs) members, permaculture committees (PCs) members, parents teachers association (PTAs) members, and teachers.
This educational visit took place at Chivwamira Primary School within the Kasungu district. This is because Chivwamira has a very successful school feeding program started through community initiative. The choice of a local example of a successful sustainable school feeding program was especially powerful as a source of motivation, reinforcing the the view that it is achievable and delivers positive otucomes. The Chivwamira school feeding committee took the visiting team for a tour to show us how they manage the project, the tour covered areas like the kitchen, the stores and the full extent of their farms (maize, beans, soya).
The visiting team observed that Chivwamira offers a very high diversity of food/breakfast to their students. This is successfully accomplished because the school with support in the form of sanitation, hygiene and nutrition (SHN) under the government department of nutrition and health, as well as GIZ (German Aid). The school offers a variety of nutritious meals to its pupils across a week. The visiting team observed that Chivwamira School has about 1, 401students but all are fed every day which was a big motivation to the visiting team, reassuring them that they could also manage to feed their students in their respective schools. We also observed that Chivwamira community is working very hard to sustain the project as they do not only rely on the support from the development partners like GIZ but rather grow their own produce.
Lessons learnt from the visit
This trip was a great success! It provided both visiting teams with many practical insights and enhanced their commitment to implement their meal programs. As a permaculture coordinator, I was especially pleased to see how excited everyone was to share knowledge and learn from each other. More than simply talking about ideas, visitors get to see progress in action! It really reinforced the value of these visits as part of us building local capacity to address critical challenges such as hunger and nutrition. Here are some of the key lessons learned from this visit:
- Chivwamira community is very well coordinated in conducting activities which are organised at the school. A strong parent-teacher committee is vital to ensuring the long-term sustainability of such a project.
- The community decided to recruit three women on a full-time basis to cook every day, they are paid for their service by the community.
- Each student is asked to bring a piece of firewood to school and this deals with the issue of firewood shortage in a sustainable manner.
- We learnt that the school has the benefit of extensive land (40 hectares) and freedom to use this as they wish.
After the visit,the teams from both schools Dwalala and Mitula made a very big commitment to implement and follow what they saw from their colleagues at Chivwamira School. Both schools will soon start their school feeding programs and I am looking forward to seeing all participants who were involved in the trip encouraging their fellow members in the community to participate and deliver positive outcomes for students!
We would like to thank In A Perfect World (IAPW) , without their generous support, these amazing initiatives would not be possible.