Malawi Countryside

Where oh where is the gypsum? (Yes Malawi, we can use fertilizer for legumes!)

Dear Malawi,

As the saying goes, if you don't ask you don't get. The GGEM team has decided that it's time to start asking the questions that we find most confusing about our state of agriculture. In doing so we hope to start generating some answers that we can work with to find lasting solutions. That being said, here goes! Let’s put our skills and knowledge to the test.

We had a very exciting 2017/ 2018 growing season. We began working with our first grower groups in Dowa and Nkhota Kota district, with nearly 200 farmers. We offer an opt in service to communities and accordingly everyone is welcome. We work with groups making the learning and accountability more efficient.

To cut a long story short, it was a transformative season. It's funny how much you can still learn about something you have spent your entire life doing. The only unanswered question we had all season was, where oh where is the gypsum? Now for those of you who don't know it- but should, gypsum is calcium sulphate, and we use it to aid in pod formation and to pretty up the groundnut. It makes the groundnut shell strong and less disease prone. It also makes the groundnut itself weightier. All great things you would like for your commercial grade groundnuts right? So how do we explain an entire agriculture based economy without such agriculture basics?

In all fairness after our groups planted in November and as we were celebrating how healthy and beautiful the groundnut plant was. There were rumors of one agri-shop that managed to wrangle some in from our more serious agriculturist neighbours. However, it was already February and several weeks too late for the application to still be useful, as you know, agriculture is a fickle creature. Timing is everything, and once your window is gone so are a few extra 100’s of kilos you could have harvested.

Mary shows us the difference in harvest size and quality. She is holding one handful of peanuts that show how little they harvested per plant before learning the GGEM way vs What they now know how to produce using GGEM Farming commercialized methods. After much effort to convince our groups in the first place that yes indeed groundnuts should be fertilized, it was the proof in the pudding that justified our actions. We really looked crazy to everyone, with passersby often whispering as they giggled, “stop wasting fertiliser, you should put it in maize!” We definitely had the last and lasting laughs! You can ask our farmer groups who saw a huge leap in harvest yield and quality. From 3 nuts per plant to as many as 50! And this from fertiliser application that even lacked the illusive gypsum. We are still struggling to figure out why our agri-inputs  are quite as non-comprehensive as what our friends across the boarders have access to? Is it because we are not yet ready?

We are working with 1000+ more farmers this year but it is still not enough to change the level of agriculture aptitude in Malawi. We need more GGEM Friends to help to spread these modern age farming fables so that the Malawi agriculture story can have a happier ending.

Try gypsum yourself next season, if you can find it! It's great for seed development and certainly worth its reasonable price. Look at it this way, if our soils can hardly grow our national pride maize without fertiliser, then how much of each element do we really think is accessible in our soils? Take pause and think of how much crop rotation is or isn't implemented? For those of you who are content with having the nitrogen fixing plant struggle as opposed to boosting its potential, consider that all these practices we have become accustomed to in isolation, have led to an incomparable standard of harvest to our neighbours. And even those far afield who would obviously expect to import a similar quality if not a superior one. We simply are not producing as vast a quantity or great a quality as those around us who are practicing commercial agriculture principles, like real grownup farmers! Let's catch up, it's not impossible. It just means we need to raise the standard, even if we are currently doing well enough… At GGEM Farming we don't talk about it until we have grown it ourselves. We took a peek next door and it was working for them so we asked, how? To yield as much as you can, keep learning. Let’s grow better Malawi, it starts by us working together.

For more potential agricultural solutions and answers to Malawi’s pressing agri-questions, contact us at


As a member of the Social Impact Incubator Malawi, we were able to build our networks of partners exponentially in 2017. As winners of the Innovation and Planning for Impact Award as well as the Community Building Award we have grown our GGEM Friends and community. We look forward to continuing on this path to generate greater impact for our farmers.

GGEM Farming becomes a Segal Family Foundation Partner .
Changing the status Quo in Malawi .