Transforming Schools with Permaculture

SCOPE Malawi
Thursday, 6th February 2020

SCOPE Malawi share how they transform the lives of many children, often living in poverty. By bringing permaculture into schools, they're improving nutrition, teaching skills and growing Earth ambassadors.

The Schools and Colleges Permaculture (SCOPE) Malawi programme has been working with schools for over seven years to transform the school grounds, teach children basic agricultural skills and provide food for the children. 

Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world with 50.7% of the population living below the poverty line and 25% living in extreme poverty; this includes around four million children. Poverty hits children the hardest and threatens their most basic rights to survival, health and nutrition, education, participation and protection from harm and exploitation. Stunted growth in Malawi’s children results in them underperforming at school due to slower brain development. Most children drop out and about 18% of all school repetitions are because of stunting.

SCOPE Malawi was established to assist schools to become productive and to meet the nutritional, educational needs of the learners. SCOPE assists the schools to transform their land from dusty, unproductive land which the children sweep everyday, into productive land with healthy food and fruits that the children enjoy. This is done using permaculture and integrated land use design. The children also acquire lifelong skills, creativity, responsibility and self-confidence that they can use at home and later on in their lives.

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The three permaculture ethics of Earth Care, People Care and Fair Share are heavily ingrained into how we work. All our programmes have a focus on resilience and regeneration of the environment. Our work with our member organisations and young people in schools aims at producing earth ambassadors, people who take care of earth and raise awareness on the bad practices happening on earth.

In the words of Bill Mollison, “The only ethical decision is to take responsibility for our own existence and that of our children”. SCOPE Malawi firmly believes that teaching our children, the young ones, is the only way to ensure true sustainability.

Over the years SCOPE has trained young people in permaculture and integrated land use design, water harvesting and watershed management, marketing, food processing and value addition, action for natural medicines, seed saving and multiplication, mainstreaming diversity, disability and project management. It is our firm belief that in order to develop children and young people it is important to look at their development in a holistic way. Some of our programmes are designed to deal with social issues that the children deal with everyday such as disability inclusiveness. Using the Integrated Land Use Design tool, a participatory design is brought about, using the SCEE approach: Social, Cultural, Ecological and Economic aspects. The tool assists the community to look at the school and community in a different way in order to meet their basic needs and tackle their problems.

SCOPE Malawi interventions of permaculture in schools and communities help people to plant more food vegetables, fruits and legumes throughout the year. Permaculture in school communities increases consumption of micronutrient rich fruits and vegetables by learners, teachers and community members. We have started to reach out to community members surrounding the schools, so that what ever is learnt by children at the school is also practiced in their homes.

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Here are some of the outputs of our work:

SOCIAL OUTPUTS

  • The participation of children, parents, staff and other stakeholders in the planning, implementation and monitoring of their new landscape design for their grounds
  • Positive attitudes towards indigenous knowledge and endogenous development
  • Increased sense of ownership of the project and of the school
  • Relationship building skills
  • Stronger school and community linkages
  • ILUD as a tool for social analysis
  • Increased access to fruits, vegetables, herbs and other foods
  • Culinary, aromatic and medicinal use of herbs

ECONOMIC OUTPUTS

  • Organic fruits, vegetables and herbs
  • Increased income from the school land
  • Increased value of the school land
  • Agro-ecological production skills
  • Affordable source of seeds and seedlings for the home economy

EDUCATIONAL OUTPUTS

  • Enhanced teaching and learning using locally available resources (TALULAR)
  • Opportunities for comparative studies of conventional and organic agriculture
  • A real mixed forest at school – a source for real life examples across the curriculum
  • ILUD tool for problem solving
  • ILUD tool for environmental analysis, planning and monitoring
  • Increased motivation

PHYSICAL OUTPUTS

  • Soil and water conservation
  • Organically improved soil
  • Greener landscapes
  • Improved ground cover
  • Integrated cropping systems
  • Increased biodiversity
  • Predator- prey systems develop
  • Improved air quality
  • Wind break
  • Cool micro climate in classrooms
  • Shady school grounds and outside classrooms

SCOPE Malawi (http://scopemalawi.com/) was one of the 20 finalists for the 2019 Permaculture Magazine Prize.

Useful links

Permaculture Magazine Prize 2019

How the garden works in educating children

Watch: The tiny, mobile community classroom

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