You can best describe Portia Phiri from Malawi as a go-getter because that is what she doing as she pursues her dream in agribusiness.
Phiri, 22, who holds a diploma in food, nutrition and livelihood and she is currently pursuing a bachelors in agribusiness management, staying in the capital Lilongwe, has created a ‘little Israel’ back in her home after visiting the country.
“I started farming less demanding crops like soya and groundnuts on a small piece of land last year with an aim of getting some income and improving the livelihood of my family,” she recounts.
But that was before she visited Israel and saw how the dry country was doing so well in agriculture.
“This gave me the courage to venture into irrigation farming. Currently, I grow soya and groundnuts on three and four hectares respectively under irrigation. I grow the two crops because they don't require much especially in terms of pest and disease management, so they are affordable to a starting farming like myself,” says Portia, who also grows sugarcane.
The capital she invested on the farm, she notes, came from the money she was paid during internship. She also received support from her parents.
“I sell my crops to an oil manufacturing company or any other buyer from Mkulima Young platform offering good prices,” she says.
“Mkulima Young is a great platform since it offers regional marketplace,” she adds
This season, she is expecting 7 to 8 tonnes of groundnuts and five to six tonnes of soya beans.
“I am a trained nutritionist, but I decided to do farming because finding a job in Malawi is not easy. I now love what I am doing and I don’t regret it,” says Portia, who believes that good nutrition starts from the field.
Since she is a student, she is always not present to manage her farm. “I do telephone farming, it very convenient because it reduces travel expenses but I do visit my farm to be sure that what I want is what is happening on the ground.”
One of the things she learnt in Israel is crop rotation and use of irrigation, noting she would always practice the two, with the former improving soil nutrition and curbing diseases.
According to her, farming starts with selecting a good site for the crops and having suitable seeds.
“Like any other crop, these legumes too need to be free from weeds,” she offers.
She notes that farming is a business that anyone can do as long as they have passion. “And you can start with whatever you have. Let's invest in farming, let's improve the livelihood of our people,” she says.
Portia calls her farm 2nd Day and its motto is "nurturing what is given to us". “When I looked at Israel with poor soils, water shortages and tough temperatures yet they produce in plenty and Malawi, with enough water, good weather conditions and soils was having starving people, I said I will make a difference,” she says.
She concludes that God has given every one enough. “We just need to nurture what we have. We can do this. Start small or with less demanding crops like soya and grow progressively.”