Update Youth Test Farm Malawi

Year two on the youth test farm in Malawi started in October 2022. This year funds are available for the construction of pig and chicken pens, a small storage area, the purchase of a motorbike and the installation of a small drip irrigation system. The results can be seen in the photos below. The purchase of pigs and chickens is still awaited. The price of feed is currently exceptionally high that it is better to wait until the prices go down again to reduce costs. Feed is expensive this time of year because last rainy season’s harvest is almost finished and food is becoming scarcer and with it feed for the animals. Once the first harvest is ready around April/May, prices are expected to drop again, then pigs and chickens will be introduced to the farm.

A drip irrigation system has also been installed on the farm that we can use in the dry season. With minimal costs, a hole was manually drilled in the ground from which water can be pumped out. A small pump with a 100 Watt solar panel can pump water from this to a tank that is 2 meters high. Gravity allows the water from the tank to the drip tubes where the water reaches the plants in an efficient manner.

The second cohort of youth started training on the farm and the first trainings focused on financial matters such as drawing up a business plan, record keeping, profit/loss account and making a budget. In December, the youth planted their chosen crops. This year, each group opted for soy. Soy is doing very well so far, so we expect a good yield. As usual on the farm, 80% will go to the youth and 20% to the farm for reinvestment.

This year we will also focus more on ‘horizontal learning’. This means that the youth will make videos on the farm and share them with other young farmers so that they can inspire others. That did not get off the ground last year because it turned out that most youth did not have a smartphone. This year, the farm purchased a smartphone that the youth will use to film. We will keep a close eye on development to see how effective this method is.

Finally, a group of youth at the farm took the initiative themselves to set up a small permaculture garden on the farm. Everyone has brought different plants such as strawberry bee plants, mint plants and ‘lemongrass’. The idea is that this will be a garden with permanent plants that can bear fruit all year round. The inspiration came from a visit from Luwayo Biswick. He is a permaculture expert and recently gave the youth a guest lecture on permaculture.