Morgan Day



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This study assessed permaculture (PC) gardening as a solution to food insecurity in rural northern Malawi by investigating its potential to be adopted by farmers and increase food production. Permaculture is "a system of agricultural and social design principles that synergistically and adaptively centers upon natural ecosystems," which includes strategic water and waste management and plant selection (Rivett et al., 2018). Research was conducted in partnership with Determined to Develop, a grassroots Malawi-based NGO. On a micro-level, this study documented best practices of permaculture in Malawi. On a meso-level, the obstacles to adoption of permaculture by traditional farmers and behavior change of the individual within larger cultural, political, economic, and environmental contexts were assessed. On a macro-level, the state of development of Malawi and whether permaculture is a potential solution to food insecurity was explored through interviews with political, academic, and nonprofit representatives. This study included 21 interviews and one focus group. An overarching theme of reciprocity was found, with sharing of knowledge and resources among stakeholders as well as a symbiotic relationship with the environment being indicators of successful outcomes. Overall, permaculture has the potential to mitigate food insecurity in Malawi, but obstacles, including economic (poverty and lack of education), cultural (aversion to labor and jealousy among neighbors), and ineffective public policies, prevent farmers’ behavior change and permaculture from being an effective solution. This study recommends further research into commercialization of agriculture and reform of public policy to increase available permaculture farming education and inputs.

Publication Date


Project Designation

Capstone Project

Primary Advisor

Youssef B. Farhat

Primary Advisor's Department

Political Science


Stander Symposium project, College of Arts and Sciences

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

Zero Hunger; Responsible Consumption and Production

Permaculture Gardening: The Potential for and Obstacles to Behavior Change in Farming Techniques to Increase Food Security in Rural Malawi