While natural habitats vary in their resilience to climate change, simplification or removal of natural vegetation cover generally increases their vulnerability. Loss of vegetation reduces the landscape's ability to absorb and retain water, exacerbating the effects of floods and droughts. Bare soils are less able to withstand extremes of sun, wind and rain and more directly vulnerable to erosion. Deliberately restoring vegetation in degraded habitats by carefully selecting species that will improve soil structure and quality, or through farmer-assisted natural regeneration, is one of the most important ways permaculture promotes climate change adaptation. Restoring vegetation can both stabilise weather and increase resilience to climatic variability and uncertainty. It is also essential to soil protection and restoration, and is among the most effective ways known to sequester carbon.
In Southern Malawi, climate change is exacerbating prior impacts of deforestation and land degradation resulting from inappropriate land use and agricultural policies which continue to promote synthetic fertilisers, pesticides and fungicides rather than agroecological methods. Forests are being systematically destroyed for new agricultural land, firewood and charcoal, and by the tobacco industry, which alone is responsible for 25 per cent of forest clearance. As a result, rainfall is increasingly late and erratic, causing crops to fail, homes and lives to be destroyed by flooding, and further eroding already severely damaged land. Most of these farmers, who make up eighty per cent of the population, are caught in cycles of dependency upon synthetic agricultural products whose purchase leaves them in crippling debt. As a result of, the average farmer’s resilience to climate change is non-existent.
Land degradation is cumulative, as loss of vegetation also removes the land's protection against rainfall, leading to increased erosion. By planting new agroforestry systems that reproduce the structure of natural forests and include large quantities of edible, commercial or otherwise useful plants, Moringa is.Already poor small holder farmers, who make up 80 per cent of the population, are caught in a cycle of dependency on synthetic agricultural products which leaves them in crippling debt. These malpractices, coupled with other erroneous policies and rampant deforestation, have left Malawian soils and the environment more generally, in a pitiful state. Rainfall is increasingly late and erratic,
The African Moringa and Permaculture Project (AMPP, soon to merge with Kusamala1) is increasing resilience to climate change in both the local ecology and the livelihoods that depend on it by creating diverse and abundant Food Forests in and around numerous villages. In 2014 they planted over 15,000 trees, with excellent survival rates. Food forests deliberately mimic natural ecological systems. Each forest is designed to include a high proportion of edible fruits and commercially valuable crops, such as ginger and passion fruit, which can hugely increase the quality and reliability of local livelihoods. The establishment of forest cover naturally contributes to soil restoration, water cycle regulation and many more ecosystem services. During the process of establishment, while the trees are still young, households can use these increasingly fertile spaces to grow vegetables for home and market. Not only do food forests support adaptation to climate change, but they naturally sequester increasing quantities of carbon as they develop; in trees and other plants, soils, and fungi growing on reserves of dead wood.
Both AMPP and Kusamala also use agroforestry and agroecology techniques in staple crop fields to transition away from conventional forms of agriculture dependent on chemical inputs. Instead, farmers learn to use organic materials and manures, design permanent beds on contours and plant nitrogen fixing ground cover plants, shrubs and trees. These techniques use locally available cheap and/or free resources, naturally retain water (increasing resilience to erratic rainfall patterns), increase yields, improve soil structure and fertility, and at the same time sequester carbon. A combination of food forests and appropriate staple field designs can solve most, if not all, the hunger, malnutrition, poverty and environmental degradation problems commonly faced by Malawian farmers.