First things first: The name is Dennis Goodson Chinkhata. I reside in Lilongwe, the capital city of the warm heart of Africa (Malawi). I am 23 years old and am in love with agriculture.
I graduated from the University of Malawi with a BSc in Aquaculture and Fisheries Science and now I work under the NEPAD Regional Fish Node, coordinating a Fish Farmers Organization that promotes innovation and use of modern technologies to improve agribusiness. I am also a member of the Malawi chapter of YPARD and one of the pioneering members of the Youth Action in Agriculture Development.
My project aims to address the challenges that hinder the growth of fish production and to increase the overall income that the average fish farmer realizes from his/her pond through diversification and integration.
Fish farmers earn low profits from their production mainly due to inaccessibility and high cost of vital inputs such as feed. By integrating fish farming with mushroom production, not only will farmers realize higher income, but will also be able to boost their fish production by being able to purchase appropriate input.
I envisage that upon successful implantation of my project, the impacts will be multidimensional. Firstly, the combination of fish and mushrooms provides both essential and micro-nutrients that are necessary for child growth and development.
Secondly with the extra income from the two enterprises, farming families will be able to buy food and send their children to school.
Thirdly with the expansion of their production, they will most likely hire extra people to help, thus providing employment. Overall, the project will contribute to food and economic security while enhancing resilience of poor communities to the effects of climate change.
I got my inspiration for agriculture I was a small boy. Growing up in a farming household I learnt to appreciate the importance of food and economic security for the wellbeing of families at a young age. Every farming season I would join my whole family in cultivating the staple, maize, and I could always see my friends from nearby villages doing the same in their fields.
Surprisingly their food would end barely some months after harvesting despite having cultivated large pieces of land. I later realized that the problem was that everyone concentrated on growing one crop, maize, even if other enterprises would be more profitable on their farm.
I pledged to motivate farmers to adopt and integrate other forms of agricultural enterprises.
The project will be implemented in two phases. The first phase will involve training farmers in mushroom production through the clubs that have already been established. I will work with three model fish farmers’ clubs, and for each club we will purchase material for the setup of a mushroom house.
Mushroom spores and production materials will also be supplied to the farmers. So far, the farmer clubs have already been formulated and trained in fish farming by the NEPAD Fish Node through the its Agriculture Technology Transfer Project. All this is estimated to take up not more than USD $1700 of the grant money. This phase will take two months to complete.
The second phase of the project will start in the second month of phase one; this will begin soon after commencement of mushroom production and will go on until the eleventh month. This phase will involve the purchase of small equipment for mushrooms packaging and production of fish feed.
The packaging of the mushroom will be part of the processing and value addition of the harvest. The fish feed mill will be used to produce high quality feed for the fish that the farmers will be able to purchase with proceeds from the mushroom sales. This phase is expected to take up a total of USD $2200 the funds ($1500 for purchase of equipment and $700 for site preparation).
To ensure the sustainability of the set up and possible replication of the project in other communities, the famer clubs will be expected to repay the funds used in the setup from their sales.
Monitoring of the success will take place throughout the project and evaluation will take place in the last month of the end of the project. Success will be measured based on the following milestones:
- i) number of farmer clubs trained in mushroom production
ii) number of mushroom houses set up
iii) set up of mushroom processing and fish feed production sites
iv) change in farmer income from farm production
v) dissemination of project results
USD $700 will therefore be used for the M&E and $400 for the production of a project documentary and the final dissemination of the results through various media.
Blogpost and picture submitted by Dennis Chinkhata (Malawi) – dchinkhata[at]gmail.com
The content, structure and grammar is at the discretion of the author only.
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