Harnessing Indigenous crops: adapting to climate change with traditional knowledge

Project Background

Malawi’s economy is Agro-based, hence any unforeseen events affecting the agricultural sector has negative impact to the economy. The risks associated with drought, floods, disease, price and market volatility and the poor adoption of measures against risks related to agriculture and new technologies contribute to low performance in agriculture. There is a need to invest in agricultural resilience by strengthening farmers’ ability to implement risk management practices, diversify crops by not concentrating all efforts on massive corn cultivation. In fact, 92% of the population living in rural areas is threatened by food insecurity.

Maize, groundnuts, beans are the main crops in Malawi and most farmers cultivate them independently on different land suitability despite the diversity of other food crops. Furthermore, Malawi is particularly affected by HIV epidemics, in fact, national prevalence of people living with HIV is about 9%. Food insecurity has a negative impact on the nutritional and health status of people with HIV because therapies do not have the desired effectiveness in presence of malnutrition. Malnutrition in people living with HIV/AIDS is often due to lack of economic capability and the consequences of the illness and the stigma and discrimination issues faced by this vulnerable group. The Community of Saint Egidio [Dream] and Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity share their respective experiences in food security and health in order to improve the life of people living with HIV in Malawi by implementing GRASS project which is aimed at empowering communities to be food sovereign, creating sustainable and diversified food gardens so that beneficiaries can have a supply of varied nutritious meals, which subsequently can improve their health status. The project will develop the resilience of people living with HIV in southern and central Malawi through creation of 30 community gardens, educational training activities about nutrition, food safety and hygiene, involving about 10,600 people. 

The TMD Story in Malawi-News

From 24 April to 1st May 2019, Slow Food International and Community of saint Egidio delegates visited Malawi to monitor the progress of a partnered 30 gardens project tittle GRASS [Growth and Resilience in Agriculture for Sustainable Societies]. The delegation visited 16 gardens out of 30 gardens which have been successfully established in six districts of central and southern Malawi namely; Dowa, Dedza, Balaka, Machinga, Mangochi and Blantyre. The peak of the GRASS project was the celebration of the local Terra Madre Day

ON 30th April, Slow Food in Malawi and the Community of Saint Egidio [Dream] organized a local Terra Madre Day to celebrate the success of GRASS project. The event took place at one of Dream clinic centres at Kapeni in Blantyre, Southern Malawi. The day was decorated by exhibitions of GRASS gardens indigenous products in which beneficiaries had to exhibit raw products and some prepared dishes, all these products are grown organically. Gulewamkulu and other traditional dances spiced up the event.

Beneficiaries of the project came from the six districts where the project is implemented and about 300 people patronized the event. Notable dignitaries to the function was Senior Chief Kapeni and his local chiefs from Blantyre, the Crops Officer representing the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, the District Nutrition Officer representing the DHO [District Health Officer] and District School Health and Nutrition who represented the DEM [District Education Manager]. Emanuele Dughera represented Slow Food International and Davide Brambilla represented Community of Saint Egidio [Dream]

The theme of the event wasHarnessing indigenous crops: Adapting to Climate Change with Traditional Knowledge” literally meaning putting the emphasis on the growing and consumption of indigenous food which is often neglected because of the rampant junky foods available on the market so as to mitigate the effects of climate change which is due to our farming practices

Each of us is called upon to practice and disseminate a new, more precise and at the same time the broader concept of food quality based the local knowledge and endowment we have in our areas…lets us eat locally grown food because they have more nutritious and are found in diversity….” explains Senior Chief Kapeni, the guest of honor at the event.

The target beneficiaries of the GRASS project are HIV positive people who access free medication services from Dream clinics. However other people were not restricted from benefiting from the project and we have seen the wonderful collaboration.

“This project is meant to empower them to sustain themselves ,  to generate diverse nutritious food, to boost their nutrition level as they take different therapies and to eat healthy food free from chemicals…….” says Davide Brambilla, Dream Lab and GRASS project Supervisor.


  1. Have trained over 450 people on how to establish sustainable gardens in Slow Food way
  2. 30 targeted gardens have been successfully established with diverse indigenous crops and 75% of the beneficiaries have replicated the gardens
  3. Hosted one local Terra Madre Day where 300 people participated
  4. Over 600 targeted beneficiaries have so far benefited from the project.

The GRASS project is funded by AICS [Italian Agency for Development Cooperation] been implemented by Slow Food International, Fondazione Slow Food for Biodiversity and Community of saint Egidio through Slow Food team in Malawi.

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