BINDURA, ZIMBABWE – Dressed in a jacket and tie, Josphat Nyika is not an archetypal farmer. The vice principal, fresh from teaching at the local elementary school, puts on a pair of plastic gloves and picks up a swarm of crawling black worms.
“People think worms or flies stink,” says the 36-year-old, tall, thin father of two in Bindura, a small valley town in northern Zimbabwe. “They don’t.” Convincing his wife otherwise was the first obstacle. The second was to procure the black soldier flies he needed to launch the venture from neighboring South Africa.
But Nyika loves challenges. Two years ago he graduated in agriculture alongside teaching. When he failed to secure funding for further research on worm farming, he went on his own. And in 2019, Nyika became the first citizen of Zimbabwe to be granted a license to import the fly that he thinks will revolutionize agriculture by offering a cheaper protein for livestock.
Thousands of them are now buzzing in a white mesh fence in his backyard. He calls it the “cage of love”. When mating, female flies lay eggs, which Nyika transfers to a separate tin container, where they hatch into worms and feed on decaying waste. In a few days, the worms can be fed live fish, chickens and pigs, or dried and pulverized into forage.
“Worms can change the feed industry and reduce the costs associated with raising livestock such as poultry, a form of livelihood for many in the country,” says the teacher-entrepreneur, who is now known locally as VaNhunzi, or Mr. Flies.
Vimbai Chinembiri, GPJ Zimbabwe
Since the 1950s, livestock feeding in Zimbabwe has relied on soy (also known as soy) for protein. But soybean production has dropped dramatically in recent years, dropping nearly 70% from 2000 to 2015. High production costs, inefficient farming practices, and inadequate infrastructure investments are the cause of the low yields and price. high level of soy, according to the Zimbabwe Economic Policy Analysis and Research Unit, an independent research institute.
Maggot breeding is gaining momentum as a potential alternative. Although there are no exact figures, experts such as Victor Marufu of the Zimbabwe Organic and Natural Food Association say the number of worm breeders is on the rise.
He believes the worms will cut feed costs for breeders by up to half. “Unlike soy, worms don’t need huge soil sizes or chemicals and a lot of water,” he says. “A small piece of land, flies and litter, the key ingredient, are all you need to get started.”
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In a village just outside Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, Andre Hoffman is setting up his first worm farm.
“Worms are a game changer in livestock feed,” says the fish and chicken farmer. It costs him $ 3.50 to raise a bird on worms, compared to $ 6.50 using soy-based feed. “In addition to worms which are an exceptionally high source of protein, chickens also taste better,” adds Hoffman.
But a lack of knowledge and innovation in the agricultural sector has slowed the spread of maggot breeding, advocates for change say.
Worm farmers don’t produce enough to transform the feed industry, says Matthew Nyakudya, a poultry and egg farmer in Bindura. Having found the “most effective” maggot food, she decided to set up her own production line with the help of maggot breeding pioneer Nyika.
“There is [also] still the ‘crap’ factor with worms, ”says Marufu of the natural food association. “People think they are disgusting, so many are still avoiding the industry.”
The government could play an important role, he suggests, by educating the public about worms and investing in their agriculture.
“Worms can change the feed industry and reduce the costs associated with raising livestock such as poultry, a form of livelihood for many in the country.”Farmer
From the Harare Department of Livestock and Veterinary Services, research director Andrew Chamisa says the government began experimenting with small-scale maggot breeding late last year.
He agrees that “there are huge opportunities” in the trade, but says a challenge to increase production has been the availability of the initial black soldier fly. “There are limited reliable suppliers of the breeding colony,” he says.
But some worm business owners say the fly is also available in Zimbabwe, if you know where to look.
“Most people don’t know how to exploit it,” says Joseph Marova, a 25-year-old agricultural graduate who started breeding worms last year. “If you go to a landfill, you can find [the fly] there. I trapped him there myself. “
From a couple of squeezed containers in her family’s garden, she produces 100 kilograms (220 lbs) of worms per day during the worm’s favorite warm summer months. He uses them to feed around 1,000 chickens on his suburban farm. Maintaining production during the cold season is more difficult, says Marova, who plans to build a greenhouse next year as a solution.
Vimbai Chinembiri, GPJ Zimbabwe
Nyika is expanding her worm business as she seeks to grow the wider industry as well. Last year, he began teaching aspiring farmers in Zimbabwe and beyond, with students enrolling in online courses from South Africa and Europe.
In the UK and South Africa, maggot breeding has already gained ground as a way to meet the needs of agriculture in a changing climate. Scientists also advocate the use of worms as food for humans to combat global malnutrition in a future where environmental disasters and epidemics could threaten supply chains.
“We want to contribute to climate-friendly agriculture,” says Nyika, who hopes to find new markets for her worms in the coming months. He points to the bottles of feed he is preparing for customers. Their labels say: “The future is the fly; The future is now. “
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