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Quarterly Report – Malawi Project

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Biochar Training at Mikuyu Prison Farm, Zomba, Malawi

October 4, 2021

Our team in Malawi has been working on putting together a biochar training program for the Mikuyu Prison Farm in Zomba, Malawi for a few years.  The prison grows as much of its own food as possible. Both inmates and officials joined in the training.

Sylvester G. Chiweza, our Project Leader in Malawi submitted this report about the experience:

“On last Friday, September 24, 2021, we had our first Biochar Training at Mikuyu Prison Farm. The training involved both indoor and outdoor activities. We started with theory in the morning and practical in the afternoon.

The training was graced by Dr. Steven Machado who came all the way from the US, as our guest of honor and later issued certificates of participation to all trainees. 

We also had incredible support through facilitation of the presentation by Mr. Charles Sokoso from Village in Partnerships.

I also wish to thank my team leaders; Pilirani Makuru for taking us through her presentation on How do I make Biochar, George Petrol and Francis Abel for taking us through practical ways of making Biochar using TLUD and Trench respectively

Mr. Alexander is a senior officer from Zomba Maximum Prison who championed organization of this training at Mikuyu1 Prison Farm. I give much appreciation to Mr. Alexander for his tremendous work, passion, and resilience towards this training. Mr. Alexander has been in touch with our Director, Sr. Miriam for the past 3 years. He never gave up for his people. Today, we are witnessing our successful onsite physical training.

George Petro and Francis Abel have a big passion towards changing the livelihood of our communities, strengthening adaptation and resilience to climate change through the use of Biochar. Even if they’re busy with personal work, they always make themselves available for any activities organized by Warm Heart Malawi. Am very proud of their zealous and hardworking spirit.” 

This is such a great opportunity in so many ways. The Department of Justice loved it because the prisoners grow their own food, and their farm can benefit from the biochar.  They sent reps from all the area prisons. We loved it because the prisoners who garden will be released soon and will take their experience with biochar with them back to their home communities, where they can teach their neighbors.

Our team in Malawi thanks you for your continuing support to help spread biochar training across Africa.

P.S.  When Sister Miriam Paulette first contacted Warm Heart years ago, one of the reasons Michael replied to her email was because he knew about the music from the Zomba prison.  See the links below for the story of how the music was collected and how to support the music.

Trench training
Demo of trench
TLUD Training
Group photo

June 4, 2021

Biochar Training Embraced in Malawi and Kenya

Anika Jubilee Women Group Kenya

This is our third year of training in Malawi and Kenya through the grass-roots network of trainers started by Sister Miriam Paulette in Malawi. There is a steady flow of requests for training, primarily from the village chiefs, who help notify attendees and follow up with any questions after the sessions.  As trainers are added to the network, the sessions expand out into new districts. 

Last year, we obtained a small grant from the US State Department, through the embassy in Lilongwe, Malawi.  The grant was delayed due to COVID and then we had to adjust the number of villages to allow for limits on crowd size. All the villages are within the Zomba district and the distances allow for two training/villages per day(unless unforeseen events like local holidays and funerals force adjustments to the schedule.) We always bring facemasks and handwashing stations to keep with COVID protocols.  The grant started April 1 and we have trained 2350 farmers in 38 villages.

At the same time, through your generosity, the Kenya team has been busy in four districts, training as the volunteer trainers schedule local villages.  So far this year they have covered 18 villages and 565 farmers.

When our trainers went back to the Chikubeni area for a new session, one of the original farmers, James came to join in and extoll on the benefits of biochar.  He has a smallholding and had gone over completely to making his own biochar fertilizer from compost, manure, and biochar.

Malawi Trainers
James, our loyal farmer from prior training
Biochar demo as top dressing to hold water

February 5, 2021

It’s Rainy Season and the Chicks are Thriving

Sister picking chicken for boy

As 2020 came to an end, and the rains have come, the trainers in Malawi took a break to let the farmers get their crops planted. 

Since June, when the teams went back out after the initial COVID lockdown, they have trained over 3000 farmers in Malawi (2100) and Kenya (900)

There were 70 training sessions with both men and women who came to learn how to make biochar from field waste, how to make fertilizer with the biochar, and how to improve their animal health by adding biochar to the feed. As subsistence farmers in one of the poorest countries in the world, using biochar will provide long term benefits to the soil.

For now, the farmers are rejuvenating their soils and reaping the benefits of the biochar they make.  

As COVID struck, your support provided sewing machines and an egg incubator for Sister Miriam Paulette in Malawi.  The masks have gone to the community and to the groups doing biochar training, to stay safety compliant.   

The egg incubator has produced over 200 chicks and the nuns are putting biochar in their feed.  They are thriving and Sister has been giving them out to children and their families in need. There is widespread hunger and the chickens provide the families with food or cash for school fees.

Your support of this project has made a huge and lasting impact on those being served. Given the knowledge of how to make and use biochar will continue to improve individual lives, increase crops for better food security, and helps remove smoke from the air, which is a benefit to everyone.

With deep gratitude, 

Dana, Evelind, Michael, and the Malawi Biochar Team

Chickens love biochar
Eggs in the incubator
Women loading corn stalks at training session
Clean burn in trench with cornstalks
Village Training in Malawi

Article on Biochar Trench Method and use in Africa

October 10, 2020

The many benefits of Biochar!

Trench method for making biochar from crop waste

Everyone benefits when biochar is made because it reduces the smoke that fills our air!

But farmers who make biochar are finding it is very beneficial not only in improving their soils by providing better crops but also as a great additive to livestock feed. It helps improve their health!

Our partners in Kenya and Malawi are particularly happy with this benefit. As the word is getting out about the benefits of biochar, and how easy it is to make, people are lining up to learn how to do it. Free training covers building a TLUD and the simplified trench method, as well as how to use the biochar for fertilizer and in animal feed.

Since the beginning of June, more than 1,000 farmers have been trained on how to make their own biochar.

One training in a small village attracted 67 participants, 46 women, and 21 men! Our trainer reported that the group was very happy to receive this training, and she said “they pledged to form farmers clubs in order to have more insights on how they can use the biochar and also how it can be charged [inoculated] for it to be more effective.”

Trainer Leyla also takes trainees through the benefits of Biochar to their poultry and livestock by mixing it in their feed or in their pens. The poultry picks up the biochar through pecking when it is scattered on the ground to reduce smells and flies. The water that they drink is also mixed with biochar.  All this boosts their immune system, prevents diseases, and as a result; keeps them healthier and stronger.

The beauty of this program is that it is simple and can be adopted anywhere there is agricultural burning.

Your investment in this program makes the world a better place.  We appreciate your enduring support; this is not an overnight solution but will take time to spread until making biochar instead of open field burning becomes standard practice, around the world. Thank you!

Vegetables flourish with biochar fertilizer
Clean burn, No smoke
Chicken pecking biochar – aids digestion, health

Free download of the inspirational story of Sister Miriam

June 17, 2020

Outreach Biochar Training has Re-started in Zomba

Biochar Training at Dowa village in Malawi

The virus stopped the biochar training in Malawi and Kenya, but the villages have been asking to restart. Sister Miriam Paulette applied for and won a small grant to train in 20 villages, but the grant funds have been stalled with the US government shutdowns. Your gifts provided the means to buy corn cobs from struggling farmers until they can learn to make biochar and re-start village training on June 13.  

Our team leader was joined by trainers from local organizations at the June 13 event: “Today we had Biochar Training in Dowa district. The training was graced by both men and women, Boys and Girls. In total, we had 56 men and women… We had a number of challenging questions from the participants, but  [local leaders] showed a professional understanding on the subject matter, Moving forward, I hope will discuss ideas, the sustainability of the Biochar as the group was keen to know a lot about Biochar and stay in touch with Warm Heart Malawi.”

The sisters at the Holy Carmel Family Monastery have been sewing face masks for the hospital and the local community.  They asked for additional sewing machines and we raised the money for one more.  When Sister Paulette and the Prioress went to purchase the sewing machine, the shop keeper sold them two for the price of one, since it was such a good cause.

We are also helping raise funds for an egg incubator. The monastery chickens are so healthy now from the added biochar in their feed.  The new chicks will go to feeding the children in the community. We have almost reached our goal, we need another $200 to be able to help buy the incubator.

The young man in the photo collecting corn cobs and corn stalk for biochar is called Steven and Sister Miriam Paulette considers him a son of the monastery …” one is of the poor boys that she was trying to feed when she first reached out to Warm Heart some years back….He was stranded and could not go to school due to school fees but later on, he found another way and he is now in college doing plumbing. He is [back at the monastery] because of lockdown so he is the one who is helping to carry corncobs. He is not part of the working staff and can render his services freely without inconveniencing the community. [We, the sisters,] give him little money as a gift for the job he’s doing but also to support him as a poor boy who depends totally on the sisters’ help.” 

Your investment in these farmers and our team leaders is spreading the means to improved livelihoods, one village at a time.

Thank you for your enduring support!

Collecting corn cob for biochar training
Collecting corn stalk for biochar
Dowa village training of Trench method

February 20, 2020

Growth and Adaptation of Biochar in Malawi

It is simply amazing how fast farmers are grasping the many benefits of making and using biochar in Africa.

Starting with a single Nun who watched our video on how to build a biochar oven, she has led a movement that has trained well over 2,500 farmers today, and is still growing.

One of the reasons it is so popular and spreading like wildfire is because it works. The farmers see the incredible results when they plant their crops with biochar. These people are hungry, and can see the immediate benefits.

They are also adapting biochar into their animal feed, which is having a positive impact on the health and growth of their chickens, pigs, cows and rabbits. 

It is very encouraging to see so many farmers excited about the results of making and using biochar. The environmental impact of less smoke from crop waste burning is a side benefit for everyone. 

Right now the rains have slowed down biochar production for awhile, but when the rains come to an end biochar production will once again be dominating the new agricultural standards in Africa, and more and more farmers will learn how to do it.

The more funds we can raise for this project the more teachers we can train to help spread biochar education to farmers. 

This project is a major step for food security for millions of people. 

Thanks for your continued support!

Evelind and Michael

Chicken egg production before biochar
Chicken egg production after biochar

Biochar Sweeps East Africa

November 25, 2019

Biochar is Joyfully Spreading Across Africa

Biochar education and training has been widely welcomed by the farmers in Africa. Here are a  few highlights of the past few months.

Zomba, where the biochar training center is located is also home to the Zomba Central Prison, one of Malawi’s biggest.

Like all of Malawi’s prisons, Zomba Central feeds itself from large, prison gardens.The gardeners are “soon to be released” prisoners whose work is overseen by corrections officers.

In a remarkable turn of events, the Commissioner of Corrections has asked our team to gather corrections officers from every prison in the country at Zomba Central and train them to make biochar. 

They will then teach the prisoner-gardeners who, when released, will take the knowledge to their villages in the furthest corners of the country.This is how we can make an impact on the environment while helping alleviate hunger. 

The Warm Heart Malawi Biochar Project gave a training at the Zomba Campus of the College of Medical and Health Sciences. The training had to be capped at 100 public health nurses in training, but there will be more. These nurses will take the training to the villages they visit and spread the learning and benefits of biochar.

The Project leader also went to Kenya where she established 5 Training Centers and ran two successful trainings for 20 people at each to test the system. She was also invited to attend an international conference in Nairobi where she briefed world experts on her work in Malawi and rural Kenya.

The biochar program in Africa continues to grow at a rapid pace. Funding of this project allows us to teach more trainers to help spread across the country and reach an even wider audience. When adopting biochar as a standard way of eliminating crop waste and fertilizing the soil the farmers win, and so does our environment. 

Please give generously to help keep the biochar training program reaching out to farmers all across Africa.

Michael and Evelind

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