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