Teaching skills in gardening at Vamizi Island

Inspiring conscientious living and sustainability: teaching women how to create compost

Inspiring conscientious living and sustainability, artisan flower grower and florist Polly Nicholson, in conjunction with the Soil Association UK,  is teaching women how to create compost. On &Beyond Vamizi Island, in a marine conservation area off the coast of northern Mozambique a local Women’s Group through Friends of Vamizi is trialling compost windrows. This is the stacking of organic matter or biodegradable waste in lengthy rows, in order to grow and cultivate vegetables.

Polly has based this initiative from Tartauruga Villa at &Beyond Vamizi Island. Implementing a technique that produces high-quality compost in a short amount of time she has been teaching the practice of windrow and compost making.

Due to the island environment a limited amount of soil is found here and therefore agricultural and sustainable methods are largely restricted. Farming is practically absent on this idyllic coral atoll and most local residents are unable to enjoy any fresh, leafy vegetables, subsisting only on fish, cassava and imported rice and beans.

Growing vegetable for the first time is an incredible experience, and with a range of locally accessible materials the  participants are able to make use of leaf mulch and woody stems from the dwarf bush vegetation prolific on the island, as well as green leaves and fresh goats dung.

A rainwater collection system has been installed as there was a lack of fresh water supplied to the island.  This will aid in vegetable irrigation throughout the dry season as up to now desalinated water has been used. Ideally enough water will be stored during rainy months. Unfortunately theses are not without their problems as plastic parts need to be replaced and repaired and mosquitoes are enticed by the water.

Polly resourcefully acquires bentonite in huge sacks from mainland Mozambique which is trawled to the island on a sailing boat (dhow). When she arrives from overseas she has the inoculant (tiny fungal filaments that form a reciprocal relationship with plants) in her hand luggage.

Successes and challenges have been an integral part of the process. The constraint of fresh water was a great hindrance as well as the ability to stockpile fresh goat’s dung. Language was a slight hurdle with translations in Portuguese, Swahili and Kimwani. However, the workshops were incredibly productive and the resident community participated and discussed how to blend ash, coffee grounds and eggshells for sustainability. The leafy crops are picked while they are still micro to avoid insect damage, the tomatoes being eaten by samabgo monkeys and the goats that have a tendency to munch whatever they can. Simple bamboo frames greenhouses covered with chainlink have been installed to shield crops from the elements and animals.

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