Work at Nature’s Gift

After just over 3 weeks in Malawi, I’m starting to get the hang of work here at the Centre. My primary focus is managing the Kusamala Commercial Garden, which is one of Nature’s Gift’s cornerstone projects. The garden contains one hundred vegetable beds, a herb/perennial garden, and a nursery. We sell produce to local restaurants and just started our third version of a vegetable box subscription, where individuals (primarily expats) sign up for a 6-week stint and receive a box full of fresh herbs and vegetables every Friday. So far the scheme has been very successful – one of my primary tasks over the next six months is to increase production in the garden so that we can expand the program.

Some of you have asked what we’re growing here – currently the garden produces onions, leeks, tomatoes, beetroot, celery, carrots, bell peppers, chili peppers, eggplant, lettuce, arugula, swiss chard, coriander, cucumbers, zucchini, butternut squash, green beans, parsley, mint, lemongrass, oregano, fennel, basil, and dill. Once the rains are over in April we will also begin growing brassicas such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and red cabbage. It’s quite a lot to keep track of!

As garden manager, I’ve spent much of the past few weeks working closely with the gardeners and learning about the day-to-day operations of the garden. I am looking to find ways to ensure continuity and consistency in our production, as recently the garden has experienced some shortages and missed planting opportunities. Additionally, I’ve taken over as the primary point of contact for our customers and have been learning the financial ropes. The job includes more managerial work than I had initially expected and is going to be a valuable experience for me.

When I’m not hanging out in the commercial garden, there are numerous other projects that I jump in and help with. The Centre has a residential garden where those of us living here can experiment with permaculture techniques and grow our own food. A number of us have been putting in hours to try and produce enough for us to be more self-sufficient (and save money!). Over the past few weeks we’ve been weeding, hoeing, preparing the beds, trying out different composting methods, and building a nursery. We’ve also designed a plan for what to plant, based on our needs and companion planting principles. Now all we need is to find seeds and start planting! The residential garden has been a great opportunity to try out some of the sustainable agriculture theories that I’ve learned about over the years. It’ll be exciting once we’re able to start harvesting.

Other projects around the Centre include designing and building a chicken rearing yard, planning a sustainable building and design course, planting jatropha trees for bio-fuel production, and building a medicinal garden. People always need help so there is never a lack of things to do.

As I get more comfortable with my role in the commercial garden and have implemented a more comprehensive management plan, I will have more time to work on other projects. In particular I hope to get involved with grant writing and project development. While the commercial garden provides some income for the Centre, the primary funding comes from training/consulting fees and grants. I am interested to learn more about that side of the organization.

While I feel like the past three weeks have been information-packed, there is still so much for me to learn. Hopefully by the end of my six months here I’ll have something to teach as well.

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