My day starts at 7am, but I am the latest riser by far. Awakened by a chorus of birds and sunlight streaming in the windows this is my favorite part of the day. The morning air is brisk and fresh and the farm is still deserted and quite. At 7:30 chores begin and everyone breaks into their weekly teams. This structure is designed so that everyone gains experience with the different functions on the farm.
For my first week I've been assigned to chickens. Each morning we move chickens between yards to minimize the damage from grazing and provide fresh forage, we maintain fences, feed and water and collect eggs. In this station people can learn about how to grow food for chickens, provide proper nutrition and the general care for both adults and the baby chicks.
Yesterday we also attempted to build a grub harvesting system, so the chickens will have a renewable protein rich food source. Otherwise, much of a chickens diet is a purchased food, a corn husk product called gaga which can be too expensive for many.
Benjamin has been working on the compost team. Each morning they build a new pile, turn existing piles to speed the process, or water them if needed. Each pile takes 3 months to fully decompose and fully mature for use in the garden. With the commercial garden space Kusamala uses a lot of compost, so managing this area is a significant job. Currently, much of the material for the compost piles comes from a diary up the road. This isn’t a resource available to most Malawians, so there’s a move to plant more green manure plants (plants that have nutrient rich leaves), so that the reliance on manure from cattle is less significant. The farm is lucky to live down the road from a working dairy that delivers endless manure, but most Malawian’s will not have a continual source to rely on.
The farm is a working demonstration of sustainable agriculture for the local people, so the aim is to build models that can be easily and inexpensively replicated locally. There seems to be a constant desire to make things more simple using more locally available materials. For example we are thinking about building a drip irrigation system made from old plastic water bottles to use in our herb garden. This will save a lot of watering time and water by slowly releasing it right where it need to go. More importantly it will demonstrate a method of watering that is accessible to local communities.