polly nicholson - mozambique, africa

Polly Nicholson, who runs Bayntun Flowers, an artisan flowers grower and florist in Wiltshire, has been trialling compost windrows in Vamizi Island, Mozambique. This small coral-based island has very little growing medium for farming, which has been non-existent on the island. Those living on Vamizi live from fish and imported cassava and rice, with no vegetables in their diet. Polly has been working with a local Women's Group to teach them the process of windrow and compost making to grow vegetables for the first time on Vamizi.

They are using only locally available materials, including leaf mulch and woody stems from the scrubby, hardy island vegetation (carbon) and fresh goats dung, green leaves (nitrogen). Gathering enough fresh goat’s dung is challenging as al the goats are free range.  The brought in dung from the nearest mainland town (Olumbe) was dry and sandy with low nitrogen content, so it takes time to get temperatures high enough.

Water has been the biggest issue. A new rainwater collection system has been installed with the aim of storing enough during the rainy season to irrigate during the dry season.   This brings its own set of issues with mosquitoes drawn to the fresh water and the problems with getting replacement parts when required.

Insect damage has been low as the leaves are all picked at the micro level.  Samango monkeys and goats are the biggest challenge so fences need to be erected to keep them out.

It is a big change for a population traditionally formed of itinerant fishermen to try growing and eating foods which require months of care and use so much of their precious water.  However the workshops are really well attended.  Language barriers are a challenge with Portugese, Swahili and Kimwani speakers all required in order to translate to everyone.

It has been very successful, they now grow most of their own vegetables and can feed the Lodge staff with fresh veg for many months of the year.  The next step is to build a garden at the village school.