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Mchinji witnesses boom in fish farming

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Geremu Wilson (not real name) says he will never engage in fish farming at his wife’s home village.

He fears that he would leave that investment behind if his marriage were to be dissolved.

Wilson is following matrilineal system of marriage that requires him to settle at his wife’s home.

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Similarly, Marietta (not real name), married over 10 years now, is not ready to belabour herself in fish farming activities despite seeing a lot more women in her present village benefiting.

She too fears that once chased back to her home village, she would have invested her energies in vain.

Marietta by virtue of patriarchal family system is settled at her husband’s home village.

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While other couples opt to settle at a neutral place and do their investments, patriarchal and matrilineal are two common kinds of marriage systems in Malawi.

However, a close look at the two systems reveals their great bearing on development initiatives.

Inkosi Nyoka of Mchinji has no kind words for Geremu or Marietta’s thinking describing it as a recipe for self-inflicted poverty and food insecurity at household level.

While admitting that traditions have to be respected, Nyoka challenges that subscribing to a particular marriage system should not be used as scapegoat from engaging in fish farming.

“It is sad that some people still hold on to archaic traditional beliefs,” says Nyoka.

Nyoka, in partnership with Mchinji District Assembly, is on a crusade persuading chiefs under his jurisdiction to encourage their subjects to utilise the opportunities in the district to construct own fish ponds.

He anticipates a blue revolution as most areas in the six traditional authorities of Mkanda, Mavwere, Zulu, Mlonyeni, Pitala, Simphasi, Dambe, Kapondo, Mduwa and Inkosi Nyoka himself have well-established clay to loamy soils, fairly flat terrain, numerous rivers and dambos that maintain a higher water table throughout the year.

Despite Bua and Lusa rivers stretching over the length of the district, the two water courses have insufficient production output of Matembafish.

It is felt that embarking on fish farming guarantees communities a steady supply of fresh fish at farmers door step.

Mchinji is located 250 kilometres away from the nearest Lake Malawi district of Salima, resulting into fresh or dried fish being unaffordable to many people.

“It is for this reason that we are on a blue revolution encouraging people in potential areas to embark on fish farming with support from the assembly as well as other external sources,” Nyoka says.

With the Ngoni being a dominant tribe in Mchinji, legend has it that it is long associated with keeping herds of cattle for milk and beef.

But Nyoka recounts that there has been a shift for other alternative sources of proteins and meat products to sustain the people’s dietary preferences.

Frequent disease outbreaks, drought, collapsed livestock extension support services and rampant cases of cross border cattle rustling are discouraging a lot of farmers from keeping cattle.

Today, Mchinji has a total of 756 fish ponds and 880 individual fish farmer. District Fisheries Officer Gertrude Kajadu is optimistic that the numbers are set to increase.

She says that her office is working closely with NGOs like Christian Action Relief in Development (Card), Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and Concern World Wide in providing technical and extension support services to rural communities interested to start fish farming in integration to other food crops.

The fisheries department established Nyoka fish farming scheme in 2005 which is one of the successful demonstration sites to inspire local community’s engagement into fish farming in the border district

From the initial membership of 85, the scheme now remains with 21 members while the rest had graduated with knowledge to start own fish ponds.

Harrison Govea, fisheries extension worker, concurs with Nyoka that coordinated sensitization on untapped opportunities by local communities and demonstrated uniqueness of fish above other meat products has resulted in a boom of fish farming in the district.

“Most meat products are products of bio-fortification or genetically modified for commercial purposes hence becoming a health risk while fish remains the only clean food product for one’s good health” argues Govea.

While Nyoka fish farming scheme intends to increase the number of ponds and embark on dairy and vegetable production, the scheme’s chairperson Evans Kalebe appeals for support towards rehabilitation of the water intake system as they consider relocating their water intake to the source of Bua River atop Mchinji Mountain.

Kajadu says inadequate supply of quality fish fingerlings and scarcity of high quality locally made fish feeds are major obstacles they face.

Nyoka further commits to take head on traditional beliefs and practices that directly contradict promotion of fish farming for nutritional and economic wellbeing of people of Mchinji and beyond.

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