Helping Malawi

Asked June 23, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT

On July 22, 2014, I am going to Malawi Africa to help educate adults, most of which have very little formal education, on the benefits of soil testing and other agricultural topics at a newly established training center that my church is helping build while partnering with local people desperate for self-improvement and a desire to be self-sufficient.

The training center is the brain child of a Malawian that worked as an interpreter for relief organizations that had good intentions but soon would leave and their help stopped. In frustration, he decided to teach his own people how to provide for themselves but is limited in resources.

I need good teaching resources starting with simple agricultural concepts and moving up the complexity. What books, videos, pamphlets, (websites/experts for me) etc. would people recommend? Pictures are especially great as many can't read even their own language.
Topics would include but are not limited to:
What is Soil? (where does it come from and what is in it)
Why Test Soil and What to do with the Results? (This topic is this years big focus and I am taking testing kits with me for the training center to use and act as their own extension office. I will also be teaching to the local government officials and can be a little more advanced as they can ask hard questions.)
Composting in Arid Climates?
Crop Rotation and the Value of Doing It
Benefits of Companion Planting
Growing grass in Arid Climates- Best Practices (especially for an athletic field)
Medicinal Herbs and How to Use Them
Pest and Insect Control

Simple Irrigation Ideas when Water is Scarce!

The training center is already on it's way to being self-sufficient through their egg production (1,300/DAY and are sold out everyday by 10AM) that we helped set up 3 years ago. However, they buy commercial feed which is a HUGE expense and have to travel far to get it; so they also want to know:

WHAT is in Chicken Feed (percentages at different stages of growth)
HOW to make it themselves....processing, equipment, storage...
How much of each crop to grow in order to meet their demand?

Even though I live in Wisconsin and will receive my initial answer from them, I hope I will also here from people that live in more arid climates of America.

Waukesha County Wisconsin

3 Responses

Dear Wisconsin – You indicated in your question that language is an issue so I’m not sure that I can be very effective or efficient at pointing you to specific publications. I would direct you to take time to search the web for resources that fit your needs. The first place to start looking is at land grant universities and their associated university extension services. When you search you can greatly improve your search by using a conditional search phrase such as: “chicken feed site:edu” . The condition phrase “site:edu” added to the search words of “chicken feed” limit the search to places like land grant universities and university extension services. This technique works for popular search engines like Google and Bing. I suspect that you will have to create, modify and adapt the publications and resources you find to fit the need for your circumstances in Africa. Your question ended up in my Email box here in the St. Louis region of Missouri. I’m only one of many in extension and my experience is limited to Midwest agriculture. I would suggest that you also contact folks directly in Wisconsin Extension and reach out to our extension partners in the west. I wish you the best in your teaching efforts in Africa.


Thank you for your reply and suggestions! While they are not well educated they are eager to learn and I will have an interpreter working with me and Malawians that are more educated just not in agriculture. In my attempt to keep my original post short (not successfully), I neglected to say I thought resources similar to what a 4H program would use would be ideal as it is in the middle of their educational level. I'm also very good at taking complex topics and simplifying them.

I have short term needs on learning about soil testing and amending that I NEED to learn to re-teach to the leaders of the training center and local government officials. This is very important! If you, or anyone in and arid climate, could give me any strong suggestions on books, articles, etc., I would greatly appreciate it.

Most other topics are to be taught over the long term as I now realize I will not be able to learn them well enough to help them on them. So, I'll use your search suggestions on those.

I have been all over the internet and sorting through all the information is daunting. If there is anything specific about any of theses topics you (or others) would recommend, I'd really appreciate it.

Thank you!

Dear Wisconsin,

Scott did a pretty good job of answering the questions within his expertise. But your request is pretty much all over the place.

We can better get you answers if you break your request into individual disciplines.

Cropping, horticulture, poultry, composting, etc as individual questions. That way the experts in this forum will not be distracted by the other parts of your request.