Jul 17, 2014

Fish Farming in Malawi: an Integrated Approach to Improving Food Security

This article is a contribution to a week-long blog carnival on USAID’s John Ogonowski and Doug Bereuter Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Program. From July 14-18, F2F program partners and American volunteers are sharing their knowledge and experience of providing technical assistance to farmers, farm groups, agribusinesses, service providers, and other agriculture sector institutions in developing and transitional countries. This blog carnival aims to capture and share this program experience. You can find all contributions on Agrilinks.

Malawi, ‘The Warm Heart of Africa” as it’s called, is a small, land-locked country in Southern Africa.  While Malawi has benefitted from economic growth and stable governance in recent years, the country is still considered one of the world’s least developed countries, highly susceptible to food insecurity and malnutrition. Low agricultural production, poor nutrition, and underdeveloped markets hinder the development of the agriculture sector and perpetuate high rates of poverty in Malawi.  The majority of the population works in agriculture, and a large portion of the sector’s labor force is made up of smallholder farmers.

The integration of agriculture and aquaculture is a unique option for smallholder farmers to improve their farming systems economically and
ecologically. Integrated fish farming occurs when fish are farmed alongside livestock and agricultural crops. When executed properly, it is a highly efficient system as waste or byproduct from one system is recycled. The fish products form a critical part of the system and also provide a highly nutritious food source as well as act as a means for income generation.

Lusangazi Integrated Fish Farming Initiative is a farmers’ association located in Mzuzu, Malawi. In 2006, the group received training in integrated fish farming but no further support was offered in subsequent years. The group currently integrates dairy cow farming, aquaculture, and vegetable production into their operation.

In June of 2014, the farmers of the Lusangazi Integrated Fish Farming Initiative welcomed CNFA Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer Dr. Leonard “Leo” Obaldo to assist them in updating their fish farming practices. Using a combination of theoretical sessions in a training center as well as interactive training using the farmers’ ponds, Leo addressed the needs of individual farmers while giving an overview of best practices. Dr. Obaldo focused largely on improving fingerling (juvenile fish) production, which can lead to improved fish farming operations as well as a new source of revenue for those who wish to sell fingerlings to other fish farmers. Leo also developed a fish farming manual that will soon be translated into the local language and act as a resource for many farmers across the country.

Improved fish farming for the Lusangazi group specifically targets women farmers. Thirty-three of Leo’s forty-two trainees were women, and two of the plots used for demonstration training were done on farms owned and operated by women. One woman farmer who has already started implementing Leo’s recommendations will move towards a larger-scale operation of fingerling production, a new source of income generation for her blossoming fish farming business.

Empowering women is crucial to bolstering food security. From a nutrition standpoint, women are a vital target group for assistance as they make consumption decisions for households and are the primary caretakers of children. Ensuring women continuous sources of income and knowledge in proper nutrition will lead to better care for children and a stronger, more productive generation of Malawians.

The training Dr. Obaldo did was the first time these farmers have received assistance in fish farming since the creation of the association. While aquaculture is recognized as an important way to improve nutrition and increase incomes for smalholder farmers, many do not have access to training or technical resources that could help them improve their operations. Leo’s Farmer-to-Farmer assignment will not only allow the Lusangazi farmers to expand and improve their operations, but it will have a positive ripple effect on other fish farmers in the community.

By strategically focusing on volunteer assignments that both improve food security and income generation for smallholder farmers, the Farmer-to-Farmer program can ensure comprehensive development for farming communities across Southern Africa. For more information on the importance of volunteer assignments, please check out CNFA’s Farmer-to-Farmer overview video.

As aligned with Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative, F2F works to support inclusive agriculture sector growth, facilitate private sector engagement in the agriculture sector, enhance development of local capacity and promote climate-smart development. Volunteer assignments address host-led priorities to expand economic growth that increases incomes and improves access to nutritious food.  Read more articles on this topic on Agrilinks. Also, make sure to subscribe to receive a daily digest in your inbox, for one week only!