Container gardening against hunger and desertification in Malawi (P. HARRY)



by Patrick Harry (founder of Container Gardening in Malawi)



Patrick HARRY with some youngsters of his club 'Future of Malawi', showing proudly the first successes of his container gardening initiative. (Photo Patrick HARRY)


Agriculture is the most important sector of the Malawi’s economy as it employs about 80% of the workforce and contributes over 80% of foreign exchange earnings. However, over the past recent years, the sector has been constantly shrinking due to the high poverty level among the poor rural farmers, hunger and poor rains due to serious deforestation in many  parts of the country.

2010-02 - Under extremely dry conditions in Malawi, remarkable successes are booked with container gardening. Here are well growing pumpkins obtained from seeds received through the "Seeds for Food"-action (Photo Patrick HARRY).


Worldwide 800 million people go to bed hungry every night the majority of them in rural areas (Source : Reaching the Rural poor- pg 1, James D.Wolfensehn).

2010-02 - A ry spell in Lilongwe city west (Photo Patrivck HARRY)

In Malawi this year, rain has been a problem with several areas receiving little or no rain. Some of the areas with a dry spell include district of Chikwawa and  Nsanje. In Nsanje, 4625  hectares have been affected,while 27648 hectares have been affected in Chikwawa. Other areas, like Lilongwe district, also suffered the same problem due to shortage of rain for some weeks, which has resulted in poor maize production in many fields despite the heavy rain still falling presently.


2010-02 : Deforestation is a major problem in Malawi. Production of tree seedlings in plastic bottles by all the school children, taking the young trees home at the end of the school year to plant them in their village would be a remarkable step forward for reforestation. (Photo Patrick HARRY)

50,000 to 70,000 hectares of forest are being destroyed every year according to the Wildlife and Environmental Society of Malawi Report( WESM).  This year, Mzuzu city was seriously destroyed by hailstorm due to the lack of a tree cover acting as a windbreak in the city.

Many people in both urban and rural areas are still destroying trees for charcoal, fuel wood  and timber despite the government warning on all  illegal destruction of the forest through the Ministry of Forestry .


Most people in Malawi live below the poverty line of earning 1 dollar per day according to the UN data. Poverty is really serious in Malawi for the following reasons:

  • High unemployment rate
  • Poor harvest due to drought, shortage of land due to overpopulation and poor farming practices
  • Hunger
  • Disease
  • High death rate due to HIV/AIDS
Food security for these kids became a reality in only a ferw months, thanks to Patrick's personal efforts. Will his initiative be followed by similar actions in the country and abroad?


The findings from the survey have proved that the ‘container gardening initiative’ shall help to combat the problems of hunger, poverty and desertification in Malawi due to the following backing points:

  • Shortage of cultivation land shall be solved through container gardening which does not need a lot of space.
  • It  is a source of food in terms of production of vegetables and fruit tree seedlings.
  • This kind of gardening is very cheap for the poor population which is struggling to survive due to extreme poverty.
  • The project will help to clean cities, urban centres and villages.
  • There will be wealth creation among the rural poor from the sales of vegetables and tree seedlings.
  • Desertification shall be reduced due to an annual reforestation program which shall be launched in schools throughout the country.
  • Container gardening education among children shall help the future generation to be free from hunger, poverty and desertification.
  • Production is high in container gardening as one can harvest a lot per square metre of  the arranged garden
2010-02 - Thanks to free seeds, provided by Prof. Willem Van Cotthem's action "Seeds for Food", we are now able to grow our own melons. (Photo Patrick HARRY)

Therefore, container gardening is the best initiative to help combat hunger, poverty and desertification in Malawi  .


Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.