A team from the William Jackson Food Group (WJFG) have returned from volunteering in Malawi where the company runs a food security project.
Five volunteers, including Francis Ahiakpa from Aunt Bessie’s, Andy George from Abel & Cole, Mario Agapito and Barbara Nowinska from MyFresh, and Nick Walker from Jackson’s Bakery, were selected for the nine-day trip earlier this year.
“We didn’t want to write a cheque and walk away – we were keen for our own people, people who wouldn’t ordinarily have the chance to do this sort of thing, to get involved and share their knowledge and enthusiasm for the project with the farmers in Malawi and this has been well received by all concerned,” said WJFG chief executive, Norman Soutar.
The project was launched in December 2015 and aims to provide permanent food security for 1,000 people in the Ntcheu District of Malawi by the end of the five-year project.
Led by WJFG’s projecr coordinator Cintia Martinez, so far the scheme has provided training, seeds, and livestock (rabbits used to help make organic and inexpensive fertiliser), and helped form co-operatives.
Soutar added: “The aim of the project is self-sustainability for the farmers so this was never about sending colleagues out to build a school or dig a well. Our colleagues helped farmers to plant trees, mix organic compost and build fences for livestock, but were also very keen to promote the project locally and really cement our relationship with the community, spending time with farmers, visiting schools in the local communities, talking to children and their families about the project.
“We’re incredibly proud of our colleagues who went to represent us and we’re delighted with how the project is progressing.”
Ahiakpa, who has worked at Aunt Bessie’s in Freightliner Road for 12 years, said: “I learned a huge amount from the locals about their farming methods and was able to apply it to my own work out there. There is such determination and co-operative spirit amongst the team, they were happy to share their knowledge with me and I’m really grateful.”
MyFresh’s Nowinska said: “It was really inspiring to see their solutions to farming issues. I had never seen how to prepare soil and integrate animals to provide natural manure. The whole process has been set up for future crops.
“I’m really pleased our business has set up this project to help others and am so proud to have been to see it for myself. Learning about new culture was fantastic. I’ve learnt so much about language, the country and their farming methods. Saying good bye was really very hard.”
The WJFG project is run with support from UK-based Co-operative College, and 10 more members of the team will visit Malawi in October.