Planet Diversity World Congress on the Future of Food and Agriculture

From compost to Chimoorfai

Mr. Nkhata and Mr. Baloyi admire the healthy demonstration crop of maize and beans grown organically

Farmers in Malawi benefit from organic practice

Author: Rosemary C. Ngoma
Organisation: Ileia
Contact: p.rooijakkers(at)

In Malawi, our forefathers used traditional methods of farming. They had enough food to feed themselves and the surplus was used for barter. Nowadays, however, hunger and poverty are the orders of the day for a common villager. Things began to change in the early 1960s when the Malawi government introduced fertilizer loans. Farmers were getting fertilizer loans with high interest rates, yet fertilizers were “burning” the soil’s fertility. The soils are now so poor that today, if a farmer does not use fertilizer, it will be difficult to get any yield.

Fertilizer loans have added insult to injury for poor local farmers, because firms charged high interest rates, and many people were unable to pay back their loans. This situation brought about acute famine, especially in our area, where many people went to prison for failing to pay back for the loans, and were then unable to work their land.

Time to act

In the 1999-2000 planting season, Kingston Jeremiah Chidumula Nkhata, a retired chief primary school teacher in Mzimba district, in the northern region of Malawi, decided it was time to act. He knew that his forefathers grew crops without chemicals, so he thought it should be possible now. As a teacher is a scavenger for information, he receives international magazines like LEISA Magazine. He collected information about compost from these magazines and soon started making compost. Later on, his entire family joined and supported his efforts and also made compost. The bumper harvest that Mr. Nkhata yielded, attracted many people to come and ask how he had achieved it. After seeing the practical work Mr. Nkhata was doing in his garden, many farmers wanted to learn about organic practices, and they decided to join together voluntarily. The members all agreed to name the initiative with Mr. Nkhata’s third name. Thus we created the Chidumula Model Organic Farming Initiative, known as Chimoorfai.

Since then, Chirmoorfai has grown very fast and attracted many members. Chimoorfai is committed to transforming the poor social and economic welfare of its members. We want Malawi to be an organic producing country, rather than relying on the application of chemicals which have burned our soils and have brought other health hazards to our communities. Organic foodstuffs present no hazards to our health.

There are still more challenges we face as an organisation. We would therefore like to partner with international organisations interested in organic and sustainable farming globally, to share our experiences and learn and develop more.

- Rosemary C. Ngoma. Executive Secretary, Chimoorfai, P.O. Box 199, Nkhamenya, Kasungu, Malawi. E-mail: This story appeared in Leisa Magazine, September 2007

From compost to ChimoorfaiFrom compost to ChimoorfaiFrom compost to ChimoorfaiFrom compost to Chimoorfai

Local Organising Committee