Posted Tuesday, 8th November, 2016

Sparkle Volunteers provide sustainable agriculture for local village

Sparkle Volunteers provide sustainable agriculture for local village
The Sparkle Foundation - Agricultural Report – September 2016

The farm land (approximately 300 square meters) which is managed by the Sparkle youth group and local Sparkle Volunteers providing sustainable agriculture and further education. The local village committee headed by the local Village chief have entrusted the Sparkle team to develop it into a viable, working farm yard.
As previously overgrown scrub, the land provided the opportunity to add value to the local community using its own resources.
The Sparkle youth group (14 – 18 years) discussed, organised and motivated each other to prepare the farm land. Although clearing the land was physically demanding, the youth group had the seed beds ready for planting in less than a week. Agriculture has become part of the Sparkle curriculum with some of the youth group classes involving trips to the farm.
The first maize seeds were planted in a small ‘ceremony’ with the Sparkle team, the wider community and Village Chief Sogoja. Other seeds provided by Sparkle include maize, rape, carrots, kidney beans, orka, chinese cabbage, guava trees and orange trees.

Advice was sought by a local independent agricultural expert, who advised on the appropriate crops to plant dependent on the season, planting techniques and watering/maintenance required. Crops will be planted on a seasonal basis to achieve the most efficient harvest and allow Sparkle to feed more children.

The youth group are solely responsible for organising a rota and watering the crops which they do in both the morning and evening. Sparkle has provided four watering cans and recycled plastic bottles to facilitate the watering which is sourced from a nearby river (approximately 100m from the farmland).

As a labour intensive process, the physical and mental strength of the Malawian’s is inspiring. For example, 14 year olds are carrying 40 litres of water on their heads after a full day at school and 3 year old children helping to carry 5 litre water bottles which are almost the same height as them. Every day different children excitedly join us when they see the youth group and Sparkle volunteers walking to the farm to water the crops. The community spirit is inspiring as not all the children who help with the watering attend Sparkle however, they are more than happy to help. A treadle pump has been purchased which will provide irrigation for the crops in a less labour intensive method.

The youth group have also spent their weekends constructing a fence from natural materials bought locally. The fence encloses the farm which enhances security and provides intermittent shade for the crops during the hot season.
The first crops will be harvested in November which will be used to feed 150+ orphans at Sparkle. It is estimated that these crops will provide sufficient food to sustain the children for 3 months until the next harvest is due. The farm will be re-plant within this 3 month period so that Sparkle can become entirely self-sufficient in terms of food production. The crops offer a varied source of food for the children which will provide much needed nutritional benefits to aid their development.

Fish Tanks
Two fish tanks are being prepared on one of the Malawian volunteer’s land. The tanks, which have been unused for a few years, will be cleared by the youth group. As the irrigation for the fish tanks is provided by a nearby river, we have to wait for the rainy season (November – February) to provide sufficient water volume to fill the tanks. Once established, it is estimated that the tanks will hold up to 100 fish. Sparkle hopes that the fish stock will be replenished through natural reproduction. Again, this will provide a sustainable source of food for Sparkle and add variation to the children’s diets.

Sparkle now owns four goats which are kept at a Malawian volunteer’s house. The meat has been incorporated into the menu for the children and Sparkle staff. Goat meat will be a quarterly treat which is cooked by the Sparkle chefs. Likewise, with the vegetables and fish, the goat meat will add variation to the children’s diets (protein, iron etc.).

Mushroom house
A mushroom house is currently being constructed on the land beside the volunteer house. In the past week, local tradesmen have laid the foundations and timber has been purchased for
construction of the main structure. The project will be sustainable and the maize shoots when harvested in November will be used as a by-product to grow mushrooms. Funding will be used to buy further construction materials, seeds and labour costs.

Vegetable & Herb Garden
In addition to the farm, Sparkle has developed a small vegetable garden outside the volunteer house. Crops planted include rape, cabbage, carrots, onions, pumpkins, strawberries, watermelon and guava. Again, crops will be used to feed the children.
Herbs have been planted in hanging baskets constructed from recycled plastic bottles which provide additional growing space to maximise food production. Herbs planted include basil, rosemary, chives, garlic and mint. This will add variety to the children’s diets and some added flavour to the food.
Sparkle’s Head of Primary plans to incorporate agriculture into the curriculum through planting herbs with the younger children and teaching them the importance of looking after them. Using plastic will also teach the children the value of recycling and further introduce the idea of sustainable thinking into the Sparkle community.

Sparkle is currently looking into composting to provide organic fertiliser for the farm, garden and herb garden. Food waste storage facilities exist on site however, they need to be adapted to be used as compost. Composting will negate the need to purchase chemical fertilisers which will ensure the crops provide maximum nutrition to the children while saving costs.

Organic fertiliser will also prevent degradation of the land through re-introduction of minerals, vitamins etc. which will ensure the viability of the land for years to come.

Cost Implications
Once established, the farm and other agricultural project will minimise the weekly food budget which will allow funds to be allocated elsewhere in Sparkle. If there is a surplus of crops after feeding the children, Sparkle will sell these in the shop which is due to be completed in December 2016. There is also the possibility of selling seedlings to the local community.

The agricultural products sold in the shops will generate an income for Sparkle which will contribute further to our sustainable goals.

Thank you
As evident from the above, Sparkle is making considerable progress towards achieving a sustainable food supply. The projects so far have empowered the Sparkle community who have organised, managed and successfully implemented the agricultural project themselves. This is a key step towards Sparkle becoming self sufficient.

The variation in the children’s weekly meals which will be derived from the farming projects will provide much needed nutritional variation. The varied food supply also presents an exciting opportunity for the Sparkle chefs who have taken ownership of organising the weekly menu by combining the Sparkle produce with traditional Malawian food such as nsima and porridge.

Help us make a difference, Donate now
« Back
Email Telephone 01376 503869
Buy gardening products online

Next Day Delivery



VISA MasterCard Maestro