Dennis Goodson Chinkhata, a Master’s Degree student in Rural Development and Agriculture Extension at the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR), Malawi, recently received a BioFISA II mobility grant from SANBio.
He used the grant to attend a three-week international Agribusiness course organized by the Israeli Agency for International Development Cooperation (MASHAV) in collaboration with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), themed Agribusiness: A Tool for the Empowerment of Rural Women. The training program was intended to share some of the Israeli success factors in commercial agriculture.
“The training program brought in delegates from nineteen countries across the globe to deliberate some of the issues facing rural women in relation to agribusiness, health and nutrition. Among other things, the training unearthed different situations women are facing across the globe and how entrepreneurship and agribusiness can be harnessed to create wealth in rural areas in their respective countries,” Dennis explained.
His passion for agriculture and development has seen him working with a fish farmers’ network in Malawi under the NEPAD SANBio Fish Node, a youth led organization working to push for the involvement of graduate youth in commercial agriculture.
Dennis remarks how as a youth in the Bioscience sector of agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa, he is well aware of the challenges hindering the development of the sector, especially in relation to commercialization efforts: “Lack of appropriate skills and technologies in production and value addition are some of the challenges which have slowed achievement of nutritionally and economically secure communities. Support for capacity building and technology transfer for the commercialization of the biosciences sector, especially agriculture, is sure to improve sustainable development in Africa.”
The course Dennis attended introduced to the participants various aspects of how to plan, develop, and manage the commercialization of agro-industries. Specific aspects included the utilization of value chain analysis tools to elaborate growth strategies in agriculture, organising and managing farm production effectively and profitably through value addition, initiating organizing and managing small agribusiness projects, providing tools for supporting small scale businesses in rural areas, as well as planning and organising small and large agriculture enterprises with an emphasis on entrepreneurial concepts.
“Personally the training exposed me to a lot practical approaches that were implemented by Israeli institutions to engage rural communities, women specifically into commercial agriculture and how scientific research was used to promote their livelihood,” Dennis said.
It wasn’t all work though, he noted. The participants had a chance to also visit agrotourism sites which is one way rural women in Israel are using agriculture to promote entrepreneurship. Apart from the historical sites, Israel has created a flourishing agrotourism industry which is dominated by rural women. Tourists from all over are more that eager to spend holidays and learn at the farms in the rural area and this has created economic opportunities for rural communities to capitalize on.
“Overall, the trip was a great experience and I have gained valuable knowledge, skills and understanding on how to contribute to the development of rural communities through agribusiness, not only in my community but the sub-continent at large,” he stated.
Looking forward, Dennis plans to apply his new knowledge in promoting commercialisation of the fish value chain in Malawi. “Furthermore, having witnessed the impact of research-led development of agribusiness, I plan to facilitate establishment of a vibrant platform of students as extension agents that will collaborate with the Fish Node and farmers on development and transfer of localised technologies for production and value addition in agriculture,” Dennis envisions.