Luwayo Biswick – Founding Director Permaculture Paradise Institute & Expert on Agro-ecology, 12 years of experience as Agro-Ecology and Permaculture Facilitator, Consultant and Designer. EU Climate smart Champion, Accredited international Holistic Land Management Professional Educator by the Savory Institute. Former adjunct Permaculture Lecture at Shareworld University. Founder of the New life Permaculture Youth organization which deals with recycling and waste management, works with local and international organizations, schools, and colleges, hospitals, local villages, communities, churches and individuals on Permaculture, Agro-ecology and sustainable land use designs for improved food production, holistic health food nutrition and lifestyles, infrastructures and integrated land management, poverty reduction, climate change mitigation and rehabilitation of degraded chaotic landscapes. Co-author of 13 Permaculture and Agro-ecology step by step manuals, author of Permaculture Design manual.


Unforgettable moments, my old days

The food crisis in Malawi is an issue very close to my heart, There is no story in Life I can tell that doesn’t concern food and the predicaments that my life went through are all food related, this is how I came to realize that the consequences of compromising the food system is not just as simple as people think, a very practical and tangible example is the hell that my life went through. I always feel a flood of tears flowing my cheeks and my heart failing to pump a flood of blood to properly function my body, I feel like dying on the spot every time I have to tell my story, it hasn’t been my hobby and never will it be. I was born into a family of 12 and grew up with the all too familiar sensation of hunger. Food was scarce and it was difficult for my parents to feed our large family. The little money we did have went to food, I started school without any hope and so I ended. I failed to complete my tertiary education because my parents couldn’t afford to pay for my fees. My feet never new shoes in all the days of my school life, this made me a subject of ridicule to many and an object of mockery to the multitude. The days we went to bed on an empty stomach outnumber the days we could get something to eat. I had to work for people to give me education or pay me to pay for education, so all I know today is not because of money but because I was born with energy to work and get what I needed in life.

Turning point

Until I was 17 years of age, I lived on the tobacco farms where my parents worked. I frequently wondered what we must have done to deserve such a difficult life. Life was very hard to me and meaningless. Then in 2009 I discovered permaculture through a friend working part time with the Never Ending Food project . Every time I went to visit my friend I was impressed by how much food was growing without the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

The abundance I saw in his garden inspired me to create my own garden, but I still didn’t understand fully the concepts of permaculture. Without any training, knowledge, support, or money, I started growing corn everywhere as to my understanding permaculture was maize production in abundance to address hunger problems since hunger was the major problem the whole of my life, I grew maize under the clothes line and soon was not able to hang my clothes, around buildings where I attracted a lot mosquitoes, in front yard of the house where everyone thought I was going mad. I also had a lot of pest problems because I was only growing one crop.

I kept visiting my friend for 3 months but he kept telling me he was gonna come to pay me a visit and see what I was doing, to him he couldn’t believe I was very serious as he is white and he has learnt that most of Malawians are very good at begging but not working to get what they want in life. This did not discourage me, I kept visiting him and I remember one day I found him in front yard of his house looking at his paradise admiring the beautiful birds in the sky attracted by a beautiful garden around his house, when I arrived I told him im not living until we go home together for him to see what I was doing and give me some advice. By that time they only had one family car and it had already gone with his wife as she was working in town. He didn’t know my house was 1.5 km from them, so he allowed coming with and seeing my place. He couldn’t believe walking a kilometer alone with a Malawian in a foreign country going to where he had no idea of. Just after an hour of walking my permaculture friend and I arrived in our village, the whole village including the chief came to see what was going on as it was their first time to see a white person in the village.

We went  straight with my friend into the garden and I started giving him a tour of the place, my friend could not believe what he saw, he was very happy as it was his first time in Malawi to see a Malawian like me doing permaculture without any instructions, he offered some advice on how I can better improve my garden. Meanwhile, everyone around me thought I was going crazy, some said I’ll never get married as they thought I can’t find a good wife with the same thinking that I had. Things like gathering mulch and planting right outside of the house were not typically done. It was the first time in their lives they had seen someone gather organic matter and plant garden beds directly outside the house to grow food. They told me that the front yard was for sweeping, and what I was doing did not fit with what was considered normal behavior. At first my parents also thought I was acting strange.

They were even concerned that I would never be able to find a good wife too. They had spent money to send me to school and expected me to be employed as soon as I graduated, but when I told them that I wanted to focus on permaculture, they did not see how it would get me anywhere in life. The whole village was against me, they said I was using a lot of water from the public borehole than anyone else in the village so some of them went to the chief to ask if he could chase me off the village since I was doing unusual things and that I brought strange way of living in the village. Some people decided to be grazing their animals in my garden every time I was a way. Some could come during the day with machetes and axes and start cutting my fruit trees without any reason. Some decided to also wake very early in the morning to compete with me in getting water from the borehole to water my plants, I tried to change my watering schedule to be watering my plants in the afternoon, but they also changed just to compete with me up until I just decided to plant all perianal plants that does not require irrigation but rain fed. This was again another very had and sad moment I will never forget in my life rejected by my own country, my own tribe and relatives for growing food to address our hunger problem and I shed tears when typing in these words. Although this was a difficult time, but I resisted the stigma of my neighbors and family until I was able to show them the encouraging results of my labor.

After one year of implementing permaculture but still without any training my family was completely transformed I got very popular in my village and country, the very first big group of over 20 officials from the ministry of agriculture, education and ministry of health came for a tour of my garden, it was so exciting, for the first time ever about 15 expensive cars parked by our small thatched house, I could not believe we gave lunch to all of them, for the first time in life feeding over 20 people from our 35m x 50m small area where we have 3 houses 5m x 4 m each

Now the whole village has caught on. All around my village people are applying the same techniques to grow their own gardens. It is truly amazing to see the neighboring villages. People who I do not even know are planting organic gardens where front yards were once barren. Now there are young girls and boys, the chief of our village, and many neighbors coming to me to learn about permaculture. They are composting, planting companion plants, and generating an income from selling vegetables.

My parents have also benefited from my persistence and vision. Around their house we have good air, clean water, beautiful landscape, fruits, and vegetables. Before we used to eat Nsima, which is our staple food made from maize, with a little bit of relish. Now my parents have plenty of fruits and greens. We also have plenty of firewood, shade, and protection against the winds. The soil is healthy and filled with nutrients. Instead of buying fruits, vegetables and firewood we can use our own freely available resources that are all around us. Now that they have seen the results and continue to grow and nurture the land, they have become the permaculture teachers in my village.