Sunday, September 22, 2013

Send Peter Zgambo to the Natural Resource College

In my last post I talked about the importance of supporting the ambitious young people of a community in order to ensure a brighter future for the entire community, now I’d like to talk about an opportunity to do just that.  Peter Zgambo is a bright ambitious young man, who I have tremendous faith in.  He was one of the first kids I got to know in Mwazisi.  He was my neighbor, and his father Charles Zgambo was my close friend and trusted counterpart as the local department of forestry extension worker.  Charles and I did a number of projects together ranging from treadle pump irrigation to tree nurseries.  Charles was always open-minded enogh to try out new projects, but also level-headed enough to tell me when he didn’t think a project was going over well, which is a perfect blend for an extension worker.

When Peter was in primary school he used to come over to my house to listen to the BBC on the radio and work out with my makeshift weights.  He often helped me in the garden, while practicing his English with me.  He was always a hard worker and curious about the different agriculture projects I was working on.  He finished primary school the top of his class,  and moved on to the Mwazisi community day secondary school.  I taught him in Form 1 Physical Science and History, and he was always one of my best students.  He decided to transfer to Ekwendeni after form 2 because Mwazisi didn’t offer form 3 and 4 physical science classes, which he wanted to take.  He passed his MSCE’s doing particularly well in math, biology, physical science, agriculture, and social and development studies. 

Immediately after graduating he sat for several college entrance exams, and got into his first choice The Natural Resource College (NRC) near Lilongwe.  The NRC was set up by the Ministry of Agriculture along with the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) as a training center for technical assistance in the field of Agriculture.  The NRC offers classes in everything from Crop science, and swine production, to Mushroom cultivation and agroforestry.  They have a 160-acre farm where students get practical experience, and a well renowned research lab.

The NRC is right down the road from one of the most impressive permaculture demonstrations that I have ever seen.  It is the home of two former Peace Corps volunteers Stacia and Kristof Nordin who arrived in Malawi in 1997 to do HIV prevention work.  They saw connections between the communities health problems, malnutrition, lack of diversity in the diet, and degrading soil fertility.  Seeing the natural connection between these problems led them to Permaculture.  Over time they made their home into a permaculture education center, and developed a permaculture demonstration village on the neighboring property with forward thinking community members.  Over the years the Nordins have introduced thousands of people to Permaculture through their own demonstrations and their work with primary schools.  I can’t do their work justice, so please visit their website: and see for yourself the good work that they are doing.  Kristoff and Stacia were good friends of mine when I was working in the Peace Corps. I brought Peter’s father Charles to visit their demonstration gardens once when we traveled to a Peace Corps training together and it made a strong impression on him.  Peter is already aware of the ideas behind permaculture from the time he spent with me, so I think having the opportunity to regularly visit the Nordins would be the perfect counterbalance to the more conventional agriculture education he will get at the NRC.

The only problem is school fees. it costs about $1,500 per semester to go to the NRC.  Charles, Peter’s father, told me that when his son showed him the newspaper announcing the students who passed the entrance exams and he saw Peter’s name, he was completely speechless, partially because he was so proud of Peter, but also because he knew there was no way he could pay for the school fees.  The Zgambos had five to six children living with them the entire time I was in the Peace Corps, and it wasn’t until near the end of my service that I realized only Peter and his brother Happy were actually the children of Charles and his wife.  The rest were nephews or nieces, and sometimes even further removed relatives,.  They were treated the same, so much so that there was no way for me to know that the other’s were not the Zgambo’s children.  But they paid for all of their secondary school fees, and provided them with everything they needed, for as long as they were in Mwazisi.  I think it must be heart breaking for Charles to know he can’t send Peter to school after all he has accomplished  

The reason I am writing this blog is because I want to help Peter pay his tuition but I can’t afford to cover his tuition alone. Catherine and I have set up an Indiegogo campaign to try to raise the necessary funds to send Peter to the NRC and get him started on a path to making a difference in Malawi.  Please visit our website: and watch the video Catherine made introducing you to the beauty of Mwazisi through her pictures while I explain a bit more about the farming situation there and how I think Peter can make a difference.

We started with a low goal of $3,000 which will only cover his first year at the NRC,  because I wasn't sure what the response would be, but we are hoping to raise much more than that so we can pay for his entire tuition from beginning to if you can please contribute early and often!  If we raise more than we need for Peter than the money will go towards other young promising people from Mwazisi that I am already paying school fees for:  Sam Gondwe who is also in Lilongwe now going to the Malawi school of tourism, and Mathews Mkandawire who is in Blantyre going to accounting school.  If you can't contribute, don't worry you can still help by getting the word out, please use your social media magic to help us reach the people who can contribute, and together we will meet our goal in no time!

Thank You