Cultivating Young Minds: School Visit to Our Permaculture Garden

Today, we had the pleasure of hosting a class of primary school students in our permaculture garden at SFHC’s Farmer Research & Training Centre. During their visit, we shared insights into agriculture and agroecology, emphasizing the importance of sustainable farming practices and the harmony between nature and agriculture. The students had also the opportunity to visit our newly constructed insect farming facility and learn about the use of Black Soldier Flies. It was an inspiring visit, and we hope that our interaction has sparked a lasting interest in eco-friendly farming and sustainable food production among these young minds. We look forward to hosting more educational visits like this to promote responsible agricultural practices to the next generation.

Building a Base for BSF Insect Farming

In the past couple of months, our Project Manager, Rowland Watipaso Mhone, has been busy setting up a special facility for Black Soldier Flies (BSF). This house is divided into sections to cater to the various stages of the BSF lifecycle, including eggs, larvae, pre-pupae, and adult flies. Organic waste will serve as nourishment for the larvae, ensuring a sustainable and eco-friendly approach.

Next, we’re fine-tuning the environment in the facility, making sure the temperature and humidity are just right for these helpful insects. Working closely with our community promoters, we will be on the lookout for farmers in our project areas, especially those involved in livestock farming, who want to be part of this exciting initiative. These farmers will get training in insect farming techniques, with the aim of producing top-notch animal feed and organic soil manure through BSF farming.

Exciting News: Our Director Honoured the WWSF Prize for Women’s Creativity in Rural Life!

We are thrilled to announce that our director, Esther Lupafya, has been awarded the prestigious WWSF-Prize by the Women’s World Summit Foundation (WWSF). This award, known as the Women’s Creativity in Rural Life Prize, was established during the 4th World Conference on Women. It annually recognizes and honours the creativity, courage and compassion of 10 rural women leaders and groups worldwide who are dedicated to improving the quality of life in rural communities.

Join us in celebrating our director’s achievement and the incredible contributions of all WWSF laureates of 2023!

Meet the 10 WWSF Laureates 2023 – Congratulations!

We extend our heartfelt gratitude to all our supporters, sponsors and partners for making our continuing work and dedication possible!

New Research Paper–Butterfly Communities and Habitats!

We are excited to share a paper that was published in the Journal of Applied Ecology from research conducted in our FARMS for Biodiversity Project! The paper, published this past June 2023, includes several of our SFHC’s collaborators, and we are so happy to share the wonderful work of our team!

This paper focuses examined whether habitat type (whether woodland vs. farmland) affects butterfly community abundance, species richness, and species assmblages. The abstract can be found on the  Recent Publications page. You can also reach out to our research collaborator, Rachel Bezner Kerr (, for a PDF copy of these papers!

Local and landscape scale woodland cover and diversification of agroecological practices shape butterfly communities in tropical smallholder landscapes

Cassandra Vogel, Vera Mayer, Mwapi Mkandawire, Georg Küstner, Rachel Bezner Kerr, Jochen Krauss, Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter

Celebrating Diversity: Highlights from Our Community Seed Fair

This month, we had the pleasure of hosting our annual Community Seed Fair at our Research and Training centre in Ekwendeni. 131 farmers, hailing from 13 different working areas, gathered to showcase their diverse seeds, creating a vibrant display of agricultural richness. This event served as a valuable platform for knowledge exchange and the sharing of unique seed varieties among our dedicated farming community. In recognition of our commitment to preserving and enhancing local seed diversity, we awarded the best-performing areas. Criteria included not only the diversity of crops grown but also the farmers’ depth of knowledge about these varieties, including their names and related farming, marketing and nutrional attributes. The top spot was secured by Kavula area represented by the proficient agroecological female farmers, Mable Lungu and Walekire Mphepo (see picture). The second position was claimed by Edundu area, followed by a joint third position of Chisangano and Kaluholo area, and Luzi area taking forth. These deserving farmers received financial rewards, which they generously shared with their fellow community members. Furthermore, we expressed our gratitude to our community promoters who worked closely with these exceptional areas (see picture). The Seed Fair was a true highlight after this year’s harvest, fostering an atmosphere of companionship, knowledge exchange, and celebration. This collective spirit continues to motivate us in our ongoing collaborative endeavors.

Awarded farmers on the first place from Kavula area (top), awarded community promoters (bottom left) and dancing SFHC staff at the opening ceremony (bottom right).

Fresh Harvests at Our Permaculture Haven

Amidst the current dimba (garden) season, our permaculture garden is thriving. We’ve planted a variety of fresh vegetables, from leafy greens to juicy tomatoes, legumes, and maize. Besides the vegetables, our garden is brimming with fruits like papayas, guavas, and various bananas and citrus fruits.  Many of the vegetables have already found their way into our shared lunches at the center and are also sold to local vendors at our market in Ekwendeni. While there are no agroecological markets established yet, we’re hopeful to make some impact on that through our Harness Farms project.

SFHC on the seed hunt

Our dedicated team can be seen carefully grading seeds, a crucial step in our efforts to support our fellow farmers. Due to extreme weather conditions such as either drought or excessive rainfall this year, many crops have suffered, making it difficult for our farmers to produce enough seeds for the next planting season. Consequently, we had to travel very long distances to secure a variety of seeds, including beans, pigeon pea, cow peas, Bambara nuts, ground nuts, orange maize, finger millet and sorghum. The scarcity of seeds has also led to increased prices, prompting us to purchase non-graded pigeon pea seeds. However, our commitment to providing high-quality, germinating seeds to our farmers remains steadfast, as seen in this image, where we ensure that each seed meets our standards before distribution. The continued support from Biovision foundation helps us make a positive impact on local agriculture despite these challenges.

The team, including our director (left), is engaged in grading the pigeon pea seeds.

“Whole landscapes, whole communities”

Check out this video that was produced within the “Seed & Knowledge Initiative” (SKI) in which we are taking part. It is a short animation video that gives an introduction to the Agroecology Landscape work that SKI has been pioneering in seven pilot sites in Southern Africa since 2021.

The SKI Agroecology Landscape project understands that concentrating solely on fields and farms isn’t enough to guarantee the sustainability of agroecological farming. It acknowledges the necessity for a comprehensive ecological strategy that fosters and rehabilitates the overall health of life both on and beneath the Earth’s surface across extensive geographical regions.

Here you can find more about SKI and the Agroecology Landscape Initiative

Soon we will enter the world of insect farming!

End of June, our director and co-director, Esther Lupafya and Laifolo Dakishoni, met with project coordinators and collaborators in Uganda to launch this new exciting project on sustainable waste-based insect farming – the “SWIFT project“.

The project aims to promote waste-based Black Soldier Fly (BSF) insect farming, converting biowaste into valuable larvae used as animal feed and insect manure as a soil amendment. This approach encourages recycling and reduces environmental impact while creating new livelihood opportunities, desirably for women and youth farmers or entrepreneurs.  We will particularly be involved in the co-development of insect farming designs, equipment, and operational strategies to establish flexible frameworks and execute pilot programs.

In July, Benjamin Yobe, a BSF expert from Blantyre, conducted a comprehensive two-day training session for our field officer, Rowland Watipaso Mhone, along with promoters Paul Nkhonjera, Burton Gama and Tinkhani Gondwe. The team gained insights into both the theory and practice of insect farming, resulting in the collaborative construction of an initial prototype, a so-called insect “love cage” (right image).

Our team has recently completed the preparatory land clearing, laying the foundation for upcoming construction activities. In the following week, we are set to initiate construction on the insect farming facility, a dedicated space where we will undertake the propagation of black soldier flies.

A taste of Malawi

With lots of exotic food stuffs being introduced in Malawi, many people have lost a touch of indigenous food. Thanks to the Mzimba North DAECC1 for introducing the yearly agricultural fair where farmers can come together showcase and trade their products and new technologies. This year’s agricultural fair’s theme was “Smallholder Commercialization; key to sustainable development”. The fair gave us an opportunity to showcase what our farmers are growing under the “Harness Farms Project”.

Through this project and part of the Northern Agroecology Collaborative (NAC) a consortium of three organizations; Soils Food and Healthy Communities, Slow Food Malawi and Biodiversity Conservation Initiative we are promoting agroecology in Northern Malawi by making initiatives for establishing agroecological markets where farmers in agroecology can sell their products at fair prices. The markets will be located in four locations; Mzuzu, Ekwendeni, Enukweni and Rumphi.

As a way of agreeing with DAECC’s theme, NAC showcased some of the local crops being grown with farmers from different locations without using synthetic fertilizer nor pesticides. From the displayed seeds, food was also prepared to show people it is possible to produce agroecological products that are marketable, healthy as well as delicious and many people rushed to the stand to have a taste of it.

1 District Agricultural Extension Coordinating Committee

see the feature from Zodiac news minutes 33-35 (facebook page)

Our agribusiness officer, Tadala Mukhuna (right) together with some farmers that are taking part in this project, Martha Chirwa, Mable Lungu, Jeremia Nyirenda, Justice Chibalazi, Damascus Symon Maona, Alice Khunga and Thandiwe Zimba (from left to right).

We displayed and sold a variety of different fruits, cereals and legumes, as well a botanical pesticides and food produced from agroecological produce.

In Memorial: Tapiwa Mkandawire

With immense sorrow, we share the heartbreaking news of the passing of our dear colleague and friend. With only 32 years, Tapiwa lost his life in tragic traffic accident, leaving us devastated. Having barely recovered from the loss of two colleagues earlier this year, this pain feels even more unbearable.

He was not just a hardworking and successful team member; he was a kind soul who touched us all. His dedication and involvement in numerous fruitful projects were inspiring. We will forever miss him and remember the impact he made.

Our thoughts and prayers are with his whole family and especially his wife and two-year-old daughter during this unimaginably difficult time. Let us unite as a community to provide unwavering support and solace to those who mourn his loss. Together, we will cherish the precious memories of our departed friend, finding strength in each other as we navigate through this profound grief.

New feature by award-winning journalist Thin Ink

We are so excited to share this uplifting new feature on our work, by former Reuters climate journalist Thin Ink. Thin reached out to SFHC in advance of the Agriculture, Nutrition and Health Academy Week in Lilongwe, Malawi this June.

We were delighted to welcome Thin to our Farmer Research and Training Center, where she interviewed farmers, staff, and collaborating researchers.

Take a look here at the feature she’s put together as a result. If you’d like to learn more about our work here at SFHC, this is a hopeful, uplifting and exciting place to start!

SFHC attended the ANH Academy week in Lilongwe

Between June 26th – 30th June, some of our team actively participated in the 8th Annual Agriculture, Nutrition and Health (ANH) conference. We were warmly hosted by the Academy team that provided an excellent platform to showcase our work. This valuable experience allowed us to not only to present our work but also facilitated enriching exchanges with a diverse community of practitioners, scientists and policy makers from both national and international backgrounds. Furthermore, it allowed us the opportunity to get together with our close collaborator Rachel Bezner Kerr.

Lizzie Shumba had the privilege of participating in a panel discussion on the topic of intersectionality, a subject we actively address through our projects, including tackling diverse vulnerabilities and gender relations.

David Banda gave a poster presentation on the “global farm metric tool” that we adapted for the Malawian context in one of our projects. The positive feedback and insightful discussions received during the session served as strong motivation to continue our efforts in creating impactful solutions.

During the event, we were delighted to screen our movie “The Ants and the Grasshopper” and our overall highlight was Anita Chitaya’s keynote speech during the final conference sessions, sharing her invaluable experiences from the farmer’s perspective and discussing the significance of the movie. Edward Singini did a great job in simultaneously translating Anita’s speech from Chitumbuka to English.

Photo credit: ANH Academy

Research visitors from Western University (Canada)

From May to July two PhD candidates in Geography and Environment from the Environment Health and Hazard Lab, led by Dr. Isaac Luginaah, were conducting research in collaboration with SFHC.

Kamaldeen Mohammed along with our forestry team, Linda, Mwapi and Tapiwa, were collaborating with farmers from several working areas to collect data in community forests. Kamaldeen’s project explores how rural communities can harness forest resources to mitigate the double burden of climate change and food insecurity in Malawi. The project uses a Participatory Geographic Information System (PGIS) and forestry inventory approach to understand the carbon sequestration potential of rural community forests and food provisioning services.

Kamal (top left) and together with team members and farmers at Nkhondopela village in the Mlimo area.

Daniel Amouk’s research seeks to understand the challenges of local seed systems and the social factors that influence seed security and food security. Specifically, he is interested in understanding the role of informal networks on the social and spatial access to seeds within the frame of recurring environmental shocks. To achieve these objectives, he deploys a mixed method approach, including questionnaire survey and in-depth interview instruments to gather data about smallholder farmers’ social networks and seed security in the context of climate change. He is grateful to the SFHC staff and management for the support and groundwork done to ensure that his research goes smoothly.

Daniel (left) together with some of his team members, Mary and Alinafe, interviewing a farmer on seed security.

Harness Farm Project Launch

Currently, our Harness Farm Project interns Clara Levy and Wezzie Phiri (picture below) are busy with conducting market observations and consumer interviews in 4 towns and villages (Mzuzu, Ekwendeni, Enukweni and Rumphi) to understand their expectations and eating habits in the context of agroecological products.

Furthermore, during the past months, our Harness Farms project team engaged with producers across the large three working areas and collected valuable data through 990 surveys and insightful focus group discussions with around 70 farmers. The primary objective was to gain insights into their farming practices, their familiarity with agroecology, and the marketing challenges they encounter. Additionally, we sought their input on the specific data they desired to gather regarding consumers’ dietary preferences, allowing for improved production organization. Additionally, we started with project awareness meetings with the farmers as well as training on agroecological farming practices like manure preparation.

Project interns Wezzie Phiri and Clara Levy at market in Rumphi conducting consumer surveys.

Farmer Refreshment Training on Agroecology

In May and June our community promoters were active across ten different working areas for a 1-day refreshment training as part of our Biovision project. The focus of these sessions was to enhance and deepen our farmers’ understanding of agroecology utilizing our comprehensive Participatory Teaching Guide. The training covered key aspects including ecological farming, nutrition and gender relations. Through this initiative, our participants had the opportunity to not only refresh their knowledge on topics such as sustainable farming practices, dietary diversity, and gender roles and decision-making within households, but also to address issues like gender-based violence. Furthermore, these sessions fostered meaningful discussions among farmers, enabling them to exchange solutions and insights regarding current challenges in the farming community.

Training with farmers in Bwaba (below) and Chisangano (top) area.

Harness Farms Project!

We are so excited to announce the start of SFHC’s new project: Harnessing agroecological food systems to enhance nutrition, income, market access and food security among smallholder farmers in northern Malawi (Harness Farms)! This project is funded by the Biovisions Foundation and we are so happy to share the development of this in our efforts to promote healthier, equitable, and resilient communities.

The project focuses on addressesing three primary issues:

  1. Limited and low-priced markets for agroecological products, 
  2. Gender inequity 
  3. Low dietary diversity

We will work on the Mzimba and Rumphi Districts in northern Malawi through community education and participatory methods. You can read more about this project here. We will be sure to share any updates of the progress of the Harness Farms Project on our page.

Read about our Farm Visit with Jombo Farmers!

Earlier this year, SFHC students and staff (Maia, Noah, & Verna) had the chance to join SFHC staff and community promoters on a visit to Jombo. They met with village members and had the chance to learn about the farmers and their fields, as well as hear about how SFHC has supported their farming development.

Farmers noted that they enjoy the collaborative nature within their community and the extensive support they can receive from one another. They also emphasized how SFHC has brought them farmer education, family support, and provided good and nutritious seeds to them.

Our team had a wonderful time getting to meet Jombo farmers and loved getting to hear much more about their stories. Please take a look here to read more about this!

Strengthening Agroecology Regional Networks Workshop

On January 17th 2023, SFHC was excited to welcome a group of researchers, members of nonprofits, and farmers at the SFHC Centre for the Strengthening Agroecology Regional Networks Workshop! This workshop was aimed to foster knowledge-sharing and discussions among stakeholders from Malawi, Uganda, and Tanzania.

Attendees exchanged findings and strategies for promoting agroecology at regional levels while also developing action plans to support the necessary institutional framework on a larger scale. Presenters and keynote speakers shared their wonderful work on organic agriculture and on policy.

We are so proud of the great progress and achievements that have been made in agroecological efforts! You can find further details about this by reading the summary of this workshop and also The Daily Times news’ article that covered it.

In Memorial: Penjani Kanyimbo and Godfrey Mbizi

We are deeply saddened by the sudden losses of Penjani Kanyimbo and Godfrey Mbizi, who both passed away on Saturday, February 4th in flash floods. Both Penjani and Godfrey were longtime employees of SFHC.

Penjani Kanyimbo was born in Chitipa, a multilingual region of Malawi near the northern borders with Tanzania and Zambia. His natural talent for languages would eventually have a great impact on our work. Penjani joined SFHC in the year 2000. Over the last 23 years, he played many roles through his multi-faceted work at the organization: from driver, to translator and interpreter, to manager of the Farmer Research & Training Centre. We will miss his kindness, his gentle humour, and his sincere, generous spirit.

Godfrey Mbizi became a member of SFHC in 2014, during the Malawi Farmer to Farmer Agroecology Project (MAFFA). He first became involved as a member of the Farmer Research Team. Over the next few years he quickly established himself as not only a talented farmer, but a strong community leader with a clear commitment to the goals of our work. He was hired as a community promoter in 2017, and as a member of staff he worked hard with our team to support farmers throughout his home region of Jombo. We will miss his deep knowledge and his dedication.

The losses of Penjani and Mbizi are profoundly felt by the staff, farmers, researchers and wider community of SFHC, as they are felt by all of us who were touched by the lives of these incredible colleagues and friends. Each of them has left behind a spouse, children, and grieving families.

If you are interested in supporting the families of our two colleagues, you can donate here, through a memorial fund set up via Friends of SFHC.

Penjani planting a seedling during a tree planting community event, January 2023
Godfrey Mbizi (center) with fellow SFHC members at a demonstration for seed sovereignty, wearing T-shirts saying “Our Seeds, Our Right, Our Life”, 2022

An interview with SFHC’s Lizzie Shumba!

Lizzie Shumba joined SFHC in 2003 and since then has contributed much to our efforts and to the success of SFHC. The Agroecology and Livelihood Collaborative (ALC) from the University of Vermont conducted an interview with Lizzie to tell her story in helping promote agroecology within Malawi to support communities. Her work has contributed to supporting nutrition, climate adaptation, gender equity, and leadership. You can read more about this in ALC’s website, where the interview can be found in English, French, and Spanish.

Meet Lizzie Shumba: Advancing Nutrition, climate Adaptation, and gender justice in Malawi.

Blume, S., & Bucini, G. (2022). Meet Lizzie Shumba: Advancing nutrition, climate adaptation, and gender justice in Malawi. Perspectives on Agroecology Transitions – No. 4. Agroecology and Livelihoods Collaborative (ALC), University of Vermont.

Take a look into SFHC’s work!

The SFHC team and the communities we work with play a crucial role in helping us reach our goals of promoting sustainability, health, and equity, so we love to share the voices of the wonderful people that make all of this possible! We met with Lizzie Shumba, the SFHC Agriculture and Nutrition Manager, and with Maria Mayuma, an SFHC Farmer, for them to talk about our agroecological works to address climate change and gender equity. SFHC is engaged in training and supporting our communities, and you can learn more about us through the videos with Lizzie and Maria below!

New Research Paper: Sept. 2022

Exciting news: new research from our SFHC team has just been published! This research is centered around examining crop diversity and its effect on food security and women’s diet quality through an intervention in Malawi. As always, we are very proud of our team and of their work! The abstract can be found on the  Recent Publications page. You can also reach out to our research collaborator, Rachel Bezner Kerr (, for a PDF copy of these papers!

Does Crop Diversity Influence Household Food Security and Women’s Individual Dietary Diversity? A Cross-Sectional Study of Malawian Farmers in a Participatory Agroecology and Nutrition Project.

Ibukun Owoputi, Nola Booth, Isaac Luginaah, Hanson Nyantakyi-Frimpong, Lizzie Shumba, Laifolo Dakishoni, Esther Lupafya, Catherine Hickey, and Rachel BeznerKerr

2 New Research Papers: 2022

We are proud to share new research from our team within the last year! Both works come from our FARMS for Biodiversity Project, and they include a research approach to transdisciplinary agroecology and an assessment of local views on forest reforestation. The abstracts can be found in the  Recent Publications page. You can also reach out to our research collaborator, Rachel Bezner Kerr (, for a PDF copy of these papers!

Chapter One – Transdisciplinary agroecological research on biodiversity and ecosystem services for sustainable and climate resilient farming systems in Malawi

Kpienbaareh, D., Bezner Kerr, R., D. Amoak, T. Chunga, Laifolo Dakishoni, S. Enloe, T. Gondwe, A. Iverson, P. Kanyimbo, G. Küstner, E. Lupafya, I. Luginaah, T. Mehreteab,V. Mayer, I. Mhoni, M. Mkandawire, T. Mkandawire, P. Moyo, P. Munthali, U. S. Nagothu, H. Nyantakyi-Frimpong, K. Poveda, L. Shumba, I. Steffan-Dewenter, Y. Tembo, C. Vogel, J. Wang.

Assessing local perceptions of deforestation, forest restoration, and the role of agroecology for agroecosystem restoration in northern Malawi

Kpienbaareh, D., I. Luginaah, R. Bezner Kerr, J. Wang, K. Poveda, I. Steffan-Dewenter, E. Lupafya and L. Dakishoni.