Malawi has a large, growing population with one of the highest population densities in Africa. It is also one of the poorest countries on the planet, with an economy dominated by low-level subsistence agriculture. Climate change means that farmers face acute and worsening environmental conditions such as droughts and floods, leading to unpredictable growing seasons. This is made worse by poor traditional agricultural practices.These twin challenges result in poor harvests, frequent crop failures, and widespread hunger.
We do not use handouts to push alien practices on Malawian farmers: instead, we only respond to request for assistance, and provide the barest minimum of handouts (pickaxes, spirit levels, measuring tape, the occasional pig, and other bits and pieces.) However, we are a tiny organisation and we cannot keep up with demand. And here lies a great risk - if farmers try to adopt Tiyeni's methods without proper training, they may cut corners and fail to implement crucial components of our Deep Bed Farming, leading to failure - and the long-term discrediting of our methods. So we urgently need to be able to support the demand for training.
Agriculture in Malawi is currently dominated by the outside provision of money, fertiliser, equipment and food. This is not just unsustainable: it constitutes a serious national crisis.
Sadly, suboptimal traditional subsistence agriculture is practiced throughout the country. This not only traps farmers in poverty, but also results in highly damaging degradation of the countryside, and a loss of fertility. Recent studies by the United Nations show that for each hectare of farmland, 29 tonnes of soil were lost each year on average, because of poor farming practices.
The photograph shows Ivy Trinidade Chimaliro holdings two sets of maize cobs: those grown with Tiyeni methods in her left hand, and those grown with traditional methods, in her right. (Photo: Alan Dixon, Chora area, 2014.)
Our ultimate aim is to stop damaging and unsustainable farming throughout Malawi and replace them with more enlightened, profitable farming methods which retain the rainwater and also nourish, protect and rebuild degraded soils. This will enable farmers to become self-sufficient, and to create a surplus that allows them, their families and their communities to break out of a long cycle of poverty, whilst rehabilitating the land for future generations.
We are very grateful to all our existing funding partners including those named below. Our work is only possible thanks to our dedicated UK supporters.