In an isolated corner of northern Mozambique great things are being done. A demonstration farm run by the Manda Wilderness Agricultural Project, an offshoot of a local trust organization and set in the picturesque region of Manda Wilderness, is held together by the efforts by five local staff and an occasional international volunteer. The farm acts as a platform for teaching villagers agricultural techniques and serves as an experimentation ground for testing new farming methods and yielding a new variety of crops.
I came to Manda Wilderness in early October as a volunteer, and was immediately impressed by the scale of the farm and the commitment of the staff. After working on other projects within the sixteen communities of the Manda Wilderness region, I have recently spent my time working directly at the farm, developing projects based on methods of permaculture with other volunteers as we strive to increase the farm yield in sustainable and efficient ways.
Banana and Pawpaw Circles
Banana and pawpaw crops were already a common sight at the Manda Wilderness Agricultural Project, though more often than not, the sight consisted of banana and pawpaw struggling for survival. Faced with poor soil conditions, the farm staff spend the majority of their day watering and placing compost around the crops, leaving very little time for actual farm development. A few other volunteers and I decided to lend a hand. We identified these issues with the farm staff and created a plan to make compost circles. With these circles the banana and pawpaw would benefit from the compost directly, limiting the necessary carrying and shoveling of compost. The circles have also been strategically placed to collect the rain water that streams off the thatched-roof huts during the rainy season, therefore cutting back the time that staff have to spend watering during the day.
This simple addition to the farm had us hard at work digging soil, collecting stones and soil from nearby rivers, layering compost, landscaping ditches for water flow, and transplanting banana, pawpaw, and lemon grass into the circles.
One of the finished circles is shown above, complete with wine bottles
which are used as a very effective slow-watering method.
Lisa, another MWAP volunteer recently created a herb spiral, once again using soil and rocks naturally found in the nearby river. This creation takes advantage of the distribution of water from the top of the spiral to the bottom, with a clay-earthenware jar filled with water at the bottom to create a more humid climate for the herbs that sit lower down on the spiral. Its position allows for the appropriate distribution of the sun as the day passes, with herbs that need the most sunlight placed at the top of the spiral. This effective spiral is also aesthetically pleasing, adding greatly to the farm landscape.
A view of the herbal spiral, soon to be a stop on the farm tour that guests from the
local eco-lodge, Nkwichi Lodge, enjoy during their visits to the farm.
Work on a tipi-trellis has just begun, with the goal of creating a storage space closer to a more remote area of the farm. This structure, serving as a support for the growth of passionfruit and cucumber plants, will act as a wind block for garden beds downwind, and will create an isolated climate inside the tipi, blocked from the sun’s rays and the wind. Plans for inside the tipi include either planting flowers appropriate for the isolated area, storing tools that are in high demand in this space, and possibly housing bees in a future beekeeping initiative. As with other projects, all materials were sourced locally from the area surrounding the farm, including bamboo, recycled wooden posts, river soil, and special tree bark used to tie everything in place. Though not yet completed, the construction will be finalized in the near future.
The skeleton of the tipi-trellis stands in a prominent location on the farm,
near a mango tree and the colorful sunflower beds.
Although my volunteer term here is coming to an end, the work at the farm seems to be endless and full of possibilities. Future projects will include the construction of a chicken foraging area to accompany a chicken tractor and the newly built chickenhouse, developing a small fruit orchard, and pursuing more permaculture influenced systems. Here within the beautiful space that MWAP boasts, the goals of sustainability, environmental responsibility, and food production are key; integrating permaculture projects into the design and the management of the farm seems like the obvious path forward, and it is surely the best route for development. For more information about MWAP and the Manda Wilderness Community Trust including ongoing projects and how to become involved as a volunteer (which I highly recommend), check out their website.
James, one of the full-time staff, showing off his winning smile.