In Blantyre, Malawi, a group of farmers are assembled around a pile of material that could help shape Africa’s future. It doesn’t look like much: a two by two metre pile of alternating layers of moist organic matter like corn stalks and chicken manure.
But over eight weeks of microbial activity and periodic turning, the unwieldy, slightly smelly mass will transform itself into compost – a low cost way to improve soils and reduce dependency on mineral fertilisers, which are at best expensive and at worst often not available at all.
"This is not your ordinary backyard compost pile, where you throw your kitchen scraps," says Johann van der Ham, who runs the demonstration farm, as he watches his students watering the next load of manure in a wheel barrow.
"It's a thermic compost pile. We teach how to build it systematically and to scale it to the needs of every farm.
The farmers learning how to make this compost, and the other people in their communities that they will bring this information back to, are smallholder subsistence farmers.
Explore the compost workshop with our 360 video below: