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Blog: Malawi and me

At the beginning of September Claire Thomson, an Assistant Manager in our Audit team, travelled to Malawi to spend three weeks volunteering at the Kusamala Institute of Agriculture and Ecology. See below her blog where she talks about her experiences.

Ukuhamba Kukumona - “Travelling opens a window to the world” (Xhosa)

No, I haven’t suddenly become fluent in Xhosa after spending three hours in Johannesburg; it was on a coffee cup on South African Airways but I thought it was a nice quote to start the post with. After travelling for 24 hours (an adventure in itself in many ways!) I arrived in Lilongwe early afternoon on Sunday. I was met by Paul and Enoch from Kusamala, who brought me to the centre.

My first few days were spent getting my bearings and settling into my accommodation. I have a beautiful one-roomed cottage on site, so only a two minute walk from the office. There are outhouses with a shower and composting toilet around the corner.

 

My role during my time here was to support Paul, the organisation’s accountant, in setting up a new accounting software package and assist with the redrafting of some of the staff policies and financial procedures. The new software will allow them to access financial information in a way that is meaningful and relevant for them, something that their previous system was unable to do. This, in turn, will help the management team and board of directors in making informed decisions about the future of the organisation and its various projects.

Since arriving I have spent some time with Chisomo, the project manager at Kusamala, who talked me through the different projects that the organisation has run in its 7 year history. Although Kusamala is a relatively small organisation, and has limited funding, it has made a difference to thousands of farmers and their families across Malawi and there is a real passion to expand further, to reach the whole country.

Permaculture is at the heart of all that Kusamala do. It is about helping farmers and families make the most of the facilities they have, creating a sustainable way of living and maximising the resources available.

Life at the centre revolves around the principle of making the most of every available resource. Resources are precious, and whether it is the use of composting toilets to both save water and generate compost, recycling glass bottles to create borders and enhance draining in beds or planting banana trees beside the water pumps (banana trees use very little water and so can survive on the drips and spills that are inevitable, yet can generate additional produce to either consume or sell), Kusamala practices what it preaches.

It’s a privilege to be able to contribute in a small way to the work that is happening here and to hear stories about what a difference these innovative, and yet simple, farming methods can make.

Unfortunately, due to ill health, I’ve had to cut my time short in Malawi, and I have returned home after only a fortnight. However, I am continuing to provide support to Kusamala remotely, using email and web based phone calls to assist with their new accounting package as well as other queries as they arise.

 

To be able to use my accounting skills in this way to support Kusamala has been a real privilege, and I hope to be able to continue to help them from a distance going forward. I am grateful to them for giving me this opportunity, and also grateful to Accounting for International Development who arranged the placement for me. Further information about Kusamala and its work can be found at http://www.kusamala.org/ and about AfID can be found at http://www.afid.org.uk/.