My name is Mweendalubi Malikana Simamba. I am a 34-year-old young woman who lives in Lusaka, Zambia. I have a degree in Economics and Business Finance and a postgraduate diploma in Economics with a specific focus on development.
I want to impact lives by helping rural communities to become nutritionally self-sufficient by growing their own food in an environmentally safe way. I therefore have pledged to use my knowledge to empower my community by having a farm that uses organic farming practices and opening my operations to the community to come and learn.
I have been farming since the beginning of 2012 on a family farm in Lusaka. Over the years, I have grown vegetables such as okra, tomato, impwa (African eggplant), baby marrow, butternut squash and a host of green vegetables for sale.
I have also had experience rearing free range local chickens for personal consumption. As I learnt more about farming, I discovered that many of the chemicals used in farming operations potentially did more harm than good to the environment. I felt there could be a better way to farm and my research introduced me to organic farming.
I would like to set up a farm that can be used as a model of sustainable agriculture with a view to making rural communities self-sufficient both nutritionally and economically.
By integrating both livestock and vegetable farming on the same piece of land, simple techniques will enable rural communities to farm in a way that does not deplete soils but rather replenish them and improve soil quality over time.
Organic methods eliminate the need for synthetic commercial fertilisers that increase the cost of farming. Where possible, I would like to incorporate indigenous plants.
With some family help, I recently purchased a piece of land. It is 1 ¼ acres in area. The land is in a rural area in Chongwe, which is just outside Lusaka. The land has no form of infrastructure on it making it a perfect place to make my vision become a reality.
In order to begin this journey, I need to sink a borehole and install a drip irrigation system. The cost of sinking a borehole will be approximately K13,000 ($1,182). Installing a drip irrigation system on about three quarters of an acre would be about K11,000 ($1,000).
I am looking to use a system that works with the gravitational pull of the earth to get water to the plants. The area is not connected to the electricity grid and therefore I have chosen to use a pump that does not require electricity. The pump costs K1,100 ($100). This would be used fill up a water tank that is connected to the drip line system.
In addition to environmental safety, I would like to uplift the standard of the community by empowering families to grow enough food so that the excess can be sold. Therefore soil fertility will be a primary focus. These farming methods are likely to also increase yield.
It is documented that yield in Zambia is quite low and increasing yield per square area would be a step in the right direction to improve overall productivity. To this end, an area for making compost out of plant waste will be included in the farm design.
I would like to use raised beds and strategically plan the area to allow close proximity of the vegetable garden to a composting area. To balance the desire to grow indigenous crops and be profitable, I would like to start by planting tomato, impwa, a legume and some indigenous vegetables.
The garden will be planned is such a way that crops that grow well together will be used and plants that keep away pests will be added as well.
In order to produce manure to feed the plants, village chickens and rabbits will be reared. Both chickens and rabbits can be raised for meat and eggs sold as well. Rabbits produce manure that is high in nutrients and this is another reason I would like to add them to this project.
To keep costs low, both rabbit and chicken housing structures will be made of only wood, cheap roofing sheets and chicken wire.
I haven’t had the financial resources I need to fully launch this project. I initially wanted to start with 100 chickens and 10 rabbits. I chose a smaller number of rabbits because unlike village chickens that I have experience with, I have never raised rabbits.
I have read widely and it appears that it could potentially grow into a profitable area of agriculture. I believe that my experience with chickens will help me raise rabbits successfully.
In spite of limited resources, I have made a start by doing the following. I employed a man who lives in the area as a full time worker. Under my direction, a chicken coop was constructed and I have a few Black Australorp chickens. In line with my vision, I used wood, roofing sheets and chicken wire mesh for structure that can comfortably hold 100 adult chickens.
In order to ensure rapid multiplication, I chose breeds of chickens that are good egg layers. The two breeds chosen were Black Australorps and Boschveld breed. Both are hardy birds and free range well.
The Black Australorps can lay more than 200 eggs a year and are on record for having had a hen lay 364 eggs out of 365 days. The Boschveld breed can lay about 200 eggs a year as well.
In December 2015, I purchased an egg incubator that can hold 96 eggs so that I could incubate my eggs. I have ordered my first batch of Boschveld eggs to incubate and I should begin incubation by end of March 2016.
Incidentally, when I bought my farm, the gentleman I bought it from had planted maize as it was the rainy season. He planted quite late in the season, but I have weeded it and I’m hoping that I can harvest some maize to use as part of my chickens’ diet. If the yield is not good, I intend to use the maize stalks either as part of a compost heap or ground cover.
To sum it all up, my costs are as follows:
Drilling a borehole will cost $1,182.
A drip line system $1,000.
Water pump $100.
The total cost of housing for 5 chicken houses, each holding 100 adult chickens, and rabbit hutches is K10,000 ($909).
The remaining $1,800 will be used to procure drinkers, feeders, seed, manure, supplementary feed, nest boxes, transport costs and to cover possible hidden costs of the project.
I believe that many rural communities would benefit if this became a success and could be duplicated in many other places.
Blogpost and picture submitted by Mweendalubi Simamba (Lusaka, Zambia) – lubisimamba[at]yahoo.com
The content, structure and grammar is at the discretion of the author only.
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