April Newsletter

8 April 2024

Help us take it to the next level

We are delighted that, for the third year running, we have been selected to be part of the Big Give’s Green Match Fund. This means that for the week of the campaign (18-25 April), the value of any donation you make will automatically be doubled!

The money raised will be used to support our project to increase farmers’ access to Deep Bed Farming by providing training for government Agricultural Officers so that they can, in turn, train farmers in their area.

We are victims of our own success: demand from farmers for Deep Bed Farming training is growing more quickly than we can satisfy it. In 2022 the Government of Malawi approved the use of Deep Bed Farming as an agriculture technology that farmers can practice with governmental support. Since then, demand has been growing from the Ministry of Agriculture's officers, keen to share the technology with the farmers in their area. The Ministry of Agriculture has now asked Tiyeni to train their 3,000+ Agricultural Officers across the country in Deep Bed Farming.

Now, thanks to this campaign, we will be able to meet both of these needs by rolling out training programmes for Agricultural Officers This will increase the availability of Deep Bed Farming techniques to a much wider group of farmers and much more quickly than we would if we were working on our own.

Godfrey Kumwenda, Tiyeni’s Training Manager commented:

"The Deep Bed Farming technology has many benefits for the environment, society and the economy. It needs to be promoted across all eight Agricultural Development Divisions in Malawi. There is a need to train government extension staff for the sustainability of the technology. The technology has been approved by the government, but few government extension staff are trained in this yet."

2024 green match banner tiyeni

The funding provided by the Green Match Fund will be used to kick-start the project which will begin to change the status quo. Although in due course the project will go nationwide, we will use this initial funding to begin the training at two district agriculture offices in the central region: Lilongwe East and Lilongwe West District Agriculture Offices. Each of the two District Agriculture Offices has thirty-two Extension Planning Areas (EPAs), with an average of sixteen extension staff per EPA. The initial project is expected to train 256 Agricultural Extension Development Officers. Each Agricultural Officer supports an average of 1,700 farmers every year so you can see how quickly the impact can spread.

As well as the in-depth training for the Agricultural Extension Development Officers at Extension Planning Area level, the project will also include briefing sessions for the directors and Agricultural Development Division officials with an average of thirty participants at each session. In addition, the project will provide training for staff at the District Agriculture Offices so that staff at all levels understand Deep Bed Farming and its potential to raise farmers’ agricultural production and productivity above the subsistence level. That’s a lot of training!

This project gives us a unique opportunity to build a legacy effect that helps feed families across Malawi through Deep Bed Farming both now and in the long term. It will also help to influence policy and help Malawi achieve its 2063 vision which prioritises improved agricultural productivity and the promotion of climate smart technologies and practices in the agricultural sector.

But we can’t do it without you! When the campaign begins on 18 April, please consider making at donation here and the amount will be doubled automatically. You will be making a real difference.

Francis Shaxson OBE


It was with great sadness that we learnt of the recent death of Francis Shaxson OBE. He was a major influence on the creation of Tiyeni back in 2004, and has been a constant source of inspiration and knowledge over the twenty years since.

Francis Shaxson spent many years as a Land Husbandry Officer in Malawi and then worked around the world for the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). His illuminating paper for the FAO in 1999 identified one of the hidden causes of the disaster of falling fertility in Malawi’s soils. He and the team of scientists with whom he was working were surprised to find the underlying soil problem of hardpan and also surprised to find how widespread it appeared to be. He said some years later “it’s almost as if, because the problem was hidden below the surface, that it was not important or did not exist”.

It was his perspicacious nature and practical applications to research and recommendations which made him such a very valuable mentor to Tiyeni. Although at the age of 90 you might think that he would have taken a break from his work, his deep interest in the importance of healthy soil, and his constant support and advice to Tiyeni meant that he never stopped thinking and coming up with creative ideas.

Francis himself said of Deep Bed Farming:

"In decades of work seeking to spread improved farming practices in different countries, I have never seen a farming technology as promising as this one. Deep Bed Farming is simple, extremely low-cost, and the results are dramatic, doubling or tripling yields from one harvest to the next. It seems to works across different slopes, different geographies, and in different soils. The potential seems enormous."

Colin Andrews, Tiyeni’s Chair commented

“Francis and I have been in continuous discussion about soil health and answers to problems met by smallholders, for more than ten years. The wealth of information at his fingertips and within his large office - filled with papers, books and the results of research - has been a rich vein of gold advice to me and also to Tiyeni. In fact, it has felt like I have been studying for a degree in soil science and a further degree in sociology, with Francis as my professor and mentor. It would have been difficult to find a better mentor.”

His latest paper, written jointly with Tiyeni’s Chair, was disseminated in June 2023. This paper was written following advice from attendees at the UN Washington Water Conference and the Rural Water Supply Network symposium in The Netherlands, both in early 2023, indicated a widespread ignorance about the existence of hardpan.

Over the last two years he had also been writing a book about water in soil and the existence of “the sticky molecule” which is H2O. It is hoped that this book will be published posthumously. He worked on this and other soil matters until the very end of his life.

Francis was a very intelligent and modest man with a wisdom that is rare to find. A family man, he will be missed by his wife, children and grandchildren. His guiding influence will also be hugely missed by Tiyeni. However, his legacy will continue to grow as more and more farmers and organisations recognise the transformative effects of the Deep Bed Farming which he inspired.

Meet Rosa Balliro, Tiyeni's new Fundraising Manager


Rosa joined Tiyeni in January, taking the tiny UK-based team back up to its full complement of two members of staff!ion and work that tackles social inequalities. I was attracted to Tiyeni because the work addresses so many of these causes simultaneously, like poverty and hunger alleviation, female empowerment, and climate change adaptation and

We sat down with Rosa to find out more about her and her new role.

What attracted you to come and work at Tiyeni?

I’ve worked and volunteered in the charity sector since I was a teenager and have always been passionate about environmental conservation mitigation. I also appreciate Tiyeni’s community-led ethos and approach.

How do you think your previous experience will be useful to your current role at Tiyeni?

I previously worked for an international development NGO that did policy work around sovereign debt (that is, government/public debt). This work helped me strengthen my knowledge of some of the underlying causes of poverty, particularly in developing countries like Malawi. Because these issues are very complex, there isn't often much public awareness of them or they often get overlooked. So while I had some background knowledge in these topics, being more immersed through the work I did helped me gain a solid grounding that I can apply to my work with Tiyeni.

Tell us about your role. What does your working day look like?

I am Tiyeni's Fundraising & Scottish Relations Manager. Fundraising makes up the majority of my role, and I largely focus on writing grant proposals to charitable Trusts and Foundations. Every day I like to set one or two specific tasks or topics to focus on, like writing up grant proposals, exploring new potential funding streams, or doing research that I can use for funding appeals. I particularly enjoy the research, because I'm able to use the skills I gained from my research-track MSc towards something that has a genuine and meaningful impact on the world.

The Scottish Relations side is an exciting new addition to this role. Scotland has a longstanding link to Malawi, and Tiyeni has already established a bit of a network in Scotland as a member of the Scotland Malawi Partnership. Since our Executive Director and former Fundraising Manager are based in England, they were only able to attend a few events in person. I live in Scotland, which gives Tiyeni a really exciting opportunity to increase its engagement with the Scotland Malawi Partnerships and other organisations up here. What are you most looking forward to in this role?

I'm really looking forward to helping Tiyeni build on its partnership work and presence up here in Scotland.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

My cat and my violin. Except sometimes if my cat is cuddled up with me it can actually make it harder to get out of bed.

how your donation helps

Our work is only possible thanks to you, our dedicated supporters.  For once, we aren't asking you to donate.  Or, at least, not yet.  If you would like to support our work, please consider donating during the Green Match Fund week of 18-25 April when the value of your donation will be doubled.

Donate 18-25 April

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Write to us at:
Ian Kerr
8, Brookside
TA19 9RT


Within Malawi, please email the Mzuzu office directly at Prisca.Mhango@tiyeni.org