The sustainable farm, Lusangazi
My most surprising moment yet
Of the three main arms of Wells for Zoë I knew about, I wasn’t expecting to be most impressed by the farm.
Maybe it was because my notions of farming stretched no further than my Grandad’s farm, and the jobs I’d get roped into doing if there was weeding to be done or a gap to be filled when cows had to be moved. Either way, as Harisen pulled up, an oasis of green agricultural knowledge and creativity came into view, and sat proudly against a somewhat more barren back drop.
It was almost holistic. There was something calming about a small community of people nurturing both children and crop here. Orchards of apples and citruses, greenhouses of mango seeds and seedlings, bananas, papaya, avocados, carrots, courgettes… and an irrigation system that could outwit the driest of seasons.
Research and training farm
Permanent solutions to permanent environmental challenges are being researched, implemented and taught here. It really is impressive.
Over a six-acre span of land, there are over 100 varieties of plants; including green manures, plants used for pest control and plants used for nitrogen fixation. It wasn’t surprising to hear University students come from as far as the capital city of Lilongwe to learn and do practical classes and exams here.
No farm like this is maintained without a strong hand or impressive mind. The farm manager, Adamson, a short man with a smile that stretches as far as the ears that have escaped his blue wooly hat, paraded us around the farm on the first day we arrived. I wished I had taken a notebook, because he spilled knowledge so quickly that I could hardly keep up. On my second day there, I came more prepared.
The local approach
The day was hot. The solar powered pump for irrigation – not sweating half as much as I was. Under a wooden cover, sat three men grafting scions from mangoes collected the previous day. To my right was a woman in the shade of a tree, doing the same job, silently and skillfully.
I was shown how to do it – my hands much more clumsy than I’d even imagined.
Everything on this farm is impressive in its own right. The fact that a plant called Tephrosia is being used for both nitrogen fixation in the soil, and as an organic pesticide is impressive.
The fact that international NGO’s such as Plan International and World Vision buy plants for their projects from here stood out – but the fact that local farmers are invited, encouraged and taught by local men how to farm more sustainably stood out more.
Beady eyed fish and nsima
Some of the food produced is used to feed the 182 girls who Wells for Zoë bring in for extra tuition on Saturday’s, some food is sold at the local market and some trees and seedlings are sold to local schools or farmers.
The day got hotter.
At 12 noon I sat with the others and ate nsima and pumpkin leaves – not yet brave enough for the tiny, shiny and beady eyed fish that looked up at me from beside it. I didn’t chance the fish, but I was glad of the invite and I sat, chatted, and learned from the men and women who make the Wells for Zoë farm what it is.