Tiyeni is a Malawian NGO with a UK funding arm. We show farmers how to improve their crop yields, using an extremely low-cost, low-technology set of methods that we have pioneered and adapted for Malawi.

Our results have been spectacular - typically doubling and often tripling crop yields from one harvest to the next. These results are sustained (and even improve) over time as healthy soils flourish. Key to our success is that we focus first on feeding the soil, rather than on feeding the plants.

We do not rely on incentives and inputs to promote adoption of our methods: instead, we respond to demand for our farming technology. Word is spreading so fast that we cannot keep up with demand from farmers for training. 

Tiyeni means "Let's Go!" in Chichewa, Malawi's most widely spoken language.

 

Deep Bed Farming

 

Our core activity is to train Malawians to use Deep Bed Farming (DBF), an innovative farming technology that we have developed over several years of trial and error.

DBF involves first using a pickaxe to break up hard compacted layers of earth several inches under the ground, which are prevalent across large areas of Malawi.  Breaking the hard pan allows roots, water and air to penetrate more deeply underground, and helps the soil retain moisture long after the rains, instead of running off immediately after rainfall and causing devastating soil erosion.   

To this (already transformational) method we harness other healthy farming practices, such as good composting, cover crops, mulching, contour planting and crop rotation.

Once the hard pan has been opened with the pickaxe, the design of the Deep Beds means that the soil is never trodden again. This prevents the compacted layer from re-forming, so the gains are preserved and even reinforced over time, as healthy organic soils steadily develop. DBF then becomes a highly effective and sustainable form of climate-friendly Conservation Agriculture, with minimal or zero tillage.

The images here show crops from traditional maize farming methods, next to crops grown with our Deep Bed methods.

 
  
 
In each case, the Tiyeni crops are taller and darker green. These results are repeated routinely, across a variety of slopes and soils.
  
To read more about Deep Bed Farming, please click here. To read about our results, please click here
 
We also invite researchers to visit our projects in Malawi to study our methods and impacts, and we are very open to collaboration!   

Our background

 
Tiyeni started in 2004 and by 2012 the prototype had been trialled and adapted successfully in several different locations. We began live operations in 2013 with 38 farmers in four villages.
 
The demonstration effect generated large demand from farmers to try out the technology and it began to spread fast. By early 2020 almost 15,000 farmers had received training directly from Tiyeni staff, from our Lead Farmers training others in their communities, or had simply learned from and copied their neighbours.  The numbers continue to grow exponentially, far faster than our team can cope with. (Our history page provides more detail.)
 
Since our methods do not rely on widespread hand-outs, they start with the right incentives - and they are low-cost and more sustainable too. We believe our approach is likely to be useful in large areas of Malawi and beyond, though we are as yet not aware of relevant studies that might show where our methods are likely to be most effective.
 
Our long-term goal is to introduce Deep Bed Farming across Southern Africa wherever the climate, agricultural requirements and socio-economic conditions make it appropriate to use.

Why has this not been done before?

 

Farmers and others describe Tiyeni's methods as plain common sense. Many people ask why our methods have not been deployed before.
 
In fact, nearly all the components of DBF have been tried before - though rarely as a combined package. Most of our methods are a form of Conservation Agriculture, though we also insist on breaking up the hard pan first, to allow the methods to work effectively. However, we have also developed key refinements that may not have been used before, such as the particular design of the deep beds.
 
More answers to this question can be found on our history page, which lays out a longer and more subtle story.
 

Our potential climate change impact

 
Tiyeni's methods help farmers deal with the effects of climate change, by making crops and soils more resilient and retaining and storing water underground far more effectively during hot and dry periods.
 
However, there is also evidence that our methods help mitigate climate change itself. This happens in several ways.
First, soils, properly treated and respected, can absorb and store large amounts of carbon, extracted from CO2 in the atmosphere, via the plants and other organisms they support.  Plant cells in leaves, stems and roots are built from carbon, and when the roots penetrate more deeply into the soil, which is the fundamental aim of Tiyeni's farming practices, they carry carbon down with them where it stays underground.
Second, we encourage farmers to use plant residues as mulch and as organic matter to feed back into the soil, rather than burning them off according to traditional practices.
Third, there is good evidence that cover crops - a core part of Tiyeni's methods - reflect more of the sun's energy back into space, relative to bare land, thus mitigating temperature rises.  
 
While we are not climate scientists, we believe our methods can have a major positive effect on the climate. You can find out more about soils and carbon capture here or here.
 

Our structure

 

Tiyeni Ltd. is the operational arm of Tiyeni. It is run by Malawians, from a small headquarters in Mzuzu in Northern Malawi. This is supported by a UK-based charity, the Tiyeni Fund, set up by life-long residents of Malawi who have worked with rural communities for many years.

All the staff in Malawi are local Malawians who are dedicated to tackling hunger in their country. 

 

Financials

 

A UK registered charity, we rely entirely on donations to fund our work in Malawi. We raise money from international Trusts and Foundations, from high net worth individuals, and from a range of smaller donors who pay monthly amounts, from £5 to £100. Our UK expenditure is kept to an absolute minimum in order to channel funds to where they are needed most: in Malawi.

The UK Charities Commission has published data about our financials. We will additionally publish our own data soon (written Feb. 2020: we are currently rebuilding our website.) 

 

About Malawi

 

Malawi, with a population of nearly 20 million people, is one of the world's poorest countries. The continuing degradation of the countryside in general and of the soil in particular constitutes a serious, long-running national crisis. A 1997 World Bank study of agriculture in Malawi and a separate report by the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) have estimated that the rate of soil erosion in many parts of Malawi to be far in excess of the rate that is required to keep the soil in a good and productive condition. Tiyeni is helping stop the erosion, and rebuilding Malawi's potentially very fertile soils.

 

See our impacts!

 
Our Research Page provides a range of studies, facts and figures.
 
This video shows the difference we can make.