Sustainable Reconstruction & Climate Resilience After Cyclone Freddy
Our major focus at the moment is both the short-term urgent need for rebuilding after Cyclone Freddy, and also supporting long-term change that enables households to become more resilient to future heavy rains, food shortages, while also alleviating the negative impacts of deforestation.
We have conducted a survey of 57 households in our neighbouring communities to assess structural damage to homes, common weak points, building resources and expertise available, and attitudes towards rebuilding using wattle and daub. A second survey of 19 ecolodgy team members living in local villages focussed in more detail on potential for permaculture landscaping, financial situations, entrepreneurial potential, as well as the structural state of their home.
We invited members and partners to join in a quick taskforce for sustainable reconstrcution. Based on our on-the-ground research of traditional vernacular architecture and reviewing the comprehensive recommendations of the Global Shelter Cluster for building back better in Malawi as well as the most affrodable and locally available resources in our area, we built a demo house in an “adjusted” wattle & daub technique, whereby a solid structural bamboo framework was filled up and then sealed in with a common loamy clay soil mix, roofed and thereafter plastered with different plastering types for long-term testing and comparison.
Building on these findings and experience, we plan to run a pilot project to set up several demonstration homesteads in our surrounding community including sustainable building techniques, permaculture landscaping, small-scale kitchen gardens and other environmentally conscious entrepreneurial activities. Our goal is to both support families that urgently need help to rebuild, while also enabling them to share knowledge within their community and demonstrate to others.
Longer-term, we would like to develop community hubs, including these demonstration households as well as Green Growth Centres, centred around knowledge sharing and entrepreneurial activities. The focuses of these hubs may vary, but could include: sustainable building methods such as wattle and daub; supply of sustainable building materials such as bamboo; permaculture landscaping; kitchen gardening in small spaces (such as vertical or sack gardening); production and supply of organic fertiliser, biochar and vermicompost; agroforestry and tree nurseries, and bee keeping.
There are many ways you could support this work, including visiting us as an impact tourist, simply coming to stay in one of our beautiful accommodation units and eat in the Beetle Bistro, donating to our crowdfunder to help us meet the most urgent needs, or sharing our work with potential research partners and relevant experts.
Kitchen Gardens for Plantation Workers
This project in 2021 was jointly financed by the TATA Group and TESCO Ltd as part of their efforts to support strategic estates they buy from. The project aimed to provide solutions to industry problems identified by the Ethical Tea Partnership including poor household nutrition, unhygienic living conditions, polluted waterways and forest destruction around estates. It also aimed to generate additional sources of income to help empower vulnerable people and women on the estates.
In this project, the ecolodgy team has worked with over 2,000 families of workers along the whole tea value-chain. Engaging with 15 villages spanning 3 traditional authorities, the aim was to provide the understanding, motivation and practical ability to plant and establish trees well in guilds and to establish simple kitchen gardens at household level. More than 20,000 trees and more than 10,000 companion plants as well as nutritious herb, legume and vegetable seeds were distributed through the project within a few months.
These mini agroforests are designed to integrate productive and soil-enhancing trees with companion herbs and flowers. This creates a more resilient space for vegetable growing and an additional resource for the household.
Community Permaculture School Pilot
This project was run in 2020/21 on the Satemwa Tea & Coffee Estates through support by Fairtrade Africa to build a Permaculture environment and teaching program in a large community School. The existing hard-packed earth around the school was transformed into a practical showcase of a well-maintained mixed forest environment with a variety of education projects.
Teaching modules have been set up and a syllabus developed. In the Permaculture School approach, kids act as change-makers in their school farms with practical advice on how to better sustain their families through regenerative farming methods and enhance their climate change reseilience and how to expand the variety of nutrition and income sources.
The aim is that teachers and pupils over time will impart knowledge and create lasting value through their own households and through demonstrating on the school grounds, for the community improving health, finances and climate resilience.
The project was hard hit by COVID-19 but ecolodgy continued the work in the second year without the financial support from the donor in order to ensure that the coort of nearly 70 pupils could finish their programme. More than 30 students successfully participated not only in the course but also in the exams and those that had been most eager during the practicals as well as those that had the best results in the tests were awarded and invited for a free weekend at ecoLODGy afterwards.
From this pilot we have learned a lot and is has shaped our future approach to Permaculture School projects. In terms of long-term transformation of a school and its grounds and maintaining/safeguarding it through long holiday months etc, a lot depends on the full motivation of the teachers’ body to get involved and lead on extracurricular activities, the community leaders, as well as on the binding in of the District Education Officers, Primary Education Advisors etc. Interviews with some of the absolvents have encouraged us as they started applying the knowledge in their homes and already started having results in terms of saving money on synthetic inputs and gaining better quality vegetables.
In 2023, we plan to start working with a network of Permaculture Partner Schools who will collaborate beyond borders on theor schools’ permaculture designs and implementation – for youthful, engaging climate change action by those that will be most affected by it.
Community Organic Pilot Farms
From 2017-2020, ecolodgy has been helping 40 farmers and their families in five villages in the surrounding community build a better way to farm by transitioning parts of their farming plots into organic methods . The project emphasized both education and practical techniques to reduce dependence on expensive chemical inputs and discover formerly untapped markets for their organic produce.
This initiative was possible with the financial support of Naturefund, a German non-profit nature conservation organization, and was implemented in collaboration with the local NGO Renew’N’Able Malawi.
A series of workshops and training courses were spread out over two years. Practical demonstration plots were established and participation in farm and community fairs.
The project enabled the subsistence farmers to include diversified organic agroforestry in their farms. Training and mentoring were included to empower them to become stewards of sustainable land use and conservation in their communities.
During the pandemic, ecolodgy created a business offering farmers the means to provide vegetables direct to buyers in the city of Blantyre.