The Umodzi Farm Demonstration Project

SVTC’s Off-Grid Solar Recycling Incubator is collaborating with farmers in Malawi’s Kasungu District on a pilot project that combines solar energy use with sustainable farming practices. The project will transform 10-acres of degraded agricultural land into a model sustainable farm.

However, for solar energy to contribute to long-term agricultural sustainability in Malawi, the expansion of solar energy must be integrated with the development of farming practices that improve agricultural productivity. Eighty percent of Malawians live in rural farming villages, with 90% of the population engaged in agriculture. However, due to unsustainable farming practices, the country is unable to achieve food security. Poor farmers depend on expensive synthetic fertilizers to plant cash crops such as maize and tobacco in the rainy season. Much of the land in Malawi stands idle during the dry season due to the lack of irrigation systems and the lack of seeds to plant crops such as legumes, sorghum, and millet that use less water and can be consumed locally.

The Incubator is collaborating with the Umodzi Farm Demonstration Project to develop a pilot project for long-term agricultural sustainability in Malawi. The project will support farmers seeking to improve their operations through the use of solar technology. At the same time, farmers will be trained in more sustainable farming practices to reintroduce indigenous crops, provide food security, and retain land integrity. The Umodzi Project will:

  • Support the distribution and use of solar water pumps and irrigation systems to provide water during the dry season.
  • Partner with the Kusamala Institute of Agriculture & Ecology to train farmers in the use of sustainable agricultural practices (such as permaculture) that use less water and do not require chemical fertilizers.
  • Utilize solar energy to power smart phones and other information technologies that enable farmers to access banking systems, find markets for their products, and manage farm finances.
  • Ensure that solar equipment supplied to the farms comes with warranties, maintenance agreements, spare parts, and recycling services.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does Umodzi mean?
In Chichewa (a local Malawian language) Umodzi means “oneness” or “togetherness.” The Umodzi Farm project brings together small farmers in the Kasungu District, while making a global connection to help finance and test the use of sustainable solar technology and sustainable farm practices. The overall goal is to increase farmers’ income and alleviate the food shortages experienced during the dry season.

Where is the Umodzi Farm located?
The Umodzi Demonstration Farm is located at Chafuta Village in the Kasungu District of Malawi, Southern Africa. The 10-acre demonstration farm site is being made available to the Incubator Project by Mathews Tisatayane, a Malawian-born San Francisco resident and former farmer. He is committed to giving back to his community and bringing sustainable farming practices to Malawi.

How does solar energy improve access to water?
Farmers on the Umodzi Farm currently depend on a hand-dug well for water. They are unable to access water during the dry season, and therefore most of the land stands idle. During this time of year, families also experience chronic food shortages. Solar-powered water pumps can improve the community’s access to water and power crop irrigation systems that support planting in the dry season.

How do mobile phones and information technology improve farming?
Solar energy can provide electricity to power mobile phones and other computing devices used by farmers. Malawians typically walk one kilometer to charge their mobile phones. Solar cell phone chargers will improve mobile communication, providing better contact with agricultural experts and specialists on sustainable farming practices. Mobile phones also provide a way for farmers to communicate with one another and to obtain information regarding markets, pricing, seed sourcing and more. Increasingly, mobile phones also provide access to banking services and digital financial management and bookkeeping systems.

Why are equipment maintenance agreements and warranties important for solar equipment recycling?
Repair, maintenance, and readily available spare parts can extend the useful life of solar products and reduce waste generation. Currently, however, users of such products typically lack access to these resources. Repair and maintenance services are integral to the sustainability of solar and a key step toward achieving the waste management hierarchy of “reduce, reuse, and recycle.”

How will the solar equipment be paid for?
SVTC will work with other NGO’s to secure donations of solar pumping equipment. Farmers participating in the Umodzi Demonstration project will develop a long-term agreement to pay for spare parts and maintenance.