SMALL FARM CITIES
This bold bottom-up initiative is empowering locals to achieve upward mobility in some of the poorest regions in the world.
Construction of “hyper-affordable houses” started in March 2023
Small Farm Cities (SFC) is a social impact startup with a prototype community in Malawi and the overarching goal of building job-creating agricultural clusters all across Africa. By integrating modern technology with hyper-affordable housing and self-sufficient municipal infrastructure, SFC generates employment, unlocks homeownership opportunities for a significant number of overlooked people, and enables the mass adoption of agricultural know-how.
Apart from homes and jobs, residents of an SFC community in Malawi are offered education and professional development opportunities, which includes daily English classes as well as sessions in technology, personal development, and specific subject matters (such as, for instance, greenhouse management). On top of that, unique legal arrangements, such as fractional ownership, enables employees, community members and other Africans to invest locally, supporting community-based businesses.
For residential component, SFC developers create low-cost, high-quality custom-built homes. Different housing models are available for various budgets and scenarios, including student housing, family housing, duplexes, and more. Small Farm Cities are complemented with self-sufficient municipal infrastructure including borehole water systems, solar-powered electricity grid, sustainable waste management, and recreational amenities.
Small Farm Cities is a registered for-profit company in Malawi operating under contract on privately-owned, properly titled land, which allows residents to benefit from clear legal, financial, and governance rules. The model of “governance by contract” relies on the condominium law and allows residents to own property without owning land, which is meant to minimise disputes and accelerate the pace of development. Though lacking formal autonomy, as a private greenfield developer that builds its own urban infrastructure, Small Farm Cities benefit from their de facto autonomous position, creating a replicable model of self-sustaining settlements with clear legal status.
The Small Farm City in Malawi is now fully operational with positive cash flow. The settlement — the Mpingu Build-Out — is centred around The Njewa Development Center with 14 commercial greenhouses producing about 5 cubic metres of tomatoes a week, six commercial fishponds stocking 25,000 fish, and several models of residential housing. Another completed feature is the Cyclone Freddy Resilience Hub hosting families who lost their homes in southern Malawi during the recent cyclone.
The off-grid community with hyper-affordable houses has a growing population of 50 residents and expects to reach the milestone of one hundred in summer 2023. Most of its 65 employees are working-class professionals with little or no formal education, whose salaries start from $50 per month. The project management team are young college graduates with degrees in agriculture, hospitality, financial and business management. Weekend activities open to the public include a farmers’ market, farm and Mpingu Garden Neighbourhood tours, sports matches, and children’s playgrounds.