Maggot breeder Josphat Nyika at work

BY PHILLIP CHIDAVAENZI

WHENEVER Josphat Nyika (34) told people what he did for a living, the revelation often elicited expressions of surprise and shock.

In the most extreme cases, his hearers thought the young man had lost his marbles. While it is normal for one to be passionate about farming and agriculture, what made Nyika’s line of farming a curiosity is his choice – aquaculture – in which he breeds flies and use their maggots to produce stockfeed.

Those who know him call him murimi wenhunzi (fly breeder), something he said often stoked the flames of curiosity in strangers, affording him the opportunity to preach his gospel of aquaculture to them.

“When I was just starting, some thought that I was no longer in my normal senses,” he quipped. “But now they can see that there is money in trash.”

Nyika received his first award from Gi Hub Phase 111 — under the auspices of SNV — of US$5 000 before becoming the second runner (start-up category) in this year’s edition of the CBZ Bank’s Youth Entrepreneurship Programme (YEP) which came with $10 000.

For many people, flies are a nuisance and they invest a lot in insecticides and such other chemicals to get rid of all manner of flies from their homes.

But Nyika has something to share with them: “I always say to them, the future is the fly and the future is now.”

For the up-and-coming entrepreneur, breeding flies has become big business just three months after venturing into the farming enterprise. This was after he imported the black soldier fly (BSF) from South Africa following the processing of the required documentation.

Described by the Forbes website as “superstar larvae”, the tiny creatures have been trending in the international aquaculture industry because of their high protein value as high quality but cheaper feed, which is sustainable on the market.

Nyika told NewsDay Weekender this week that he decided to breed the BSF — which is not associated with the transfer of disease like other species of flies — to help communal livestock farmers battling to access stockfeed.

“I was inspired by the zeal to find solutions to challenges faced by smallholder poultry, fish and pig farmers to access stockfeed due to its high cost,” he said.

In other countries such as the United States, the larvae of the BSF are harvested and sold as food for exotic pets such as lizards, birds, even hedgehogs and maggot farming has become part of a burgeoning industry.

Scientists have also established that the BSF larva has a rare ability to transform organic waste into high-quality protein.

According to Nyika, the BSF could also play a critical role in environmental conservation “as recycling of organic waste would reduce greenhouse gases emitted into the environment by decomposing organic waste”.

Nyika acknowledged that there was a huge market for stockfeeds produced from the maggots because every household in Zimbabwe and beyond with poultry needed them, adding that he had received enquiries from as far as Mozambique, Tanzania and Botswana.

The emerging entrepreneur established a business called Zim Maggot Producers (Pvt) Ltd, which currently employs five workers. He, however, said given the demand for his produce, his target was to grow the business to employ at least 15 people by July 2020 once the construction of his factory was completed.

He indicated that he used a small portion of his plot at Zvakwana Farm in Bindura for his business.

“I have a breeding section where the larva will be allowed to progress to the next stage and become adults. This process repeats continuously. I also have a section where the larva will be harvested and processed into stockfeed,” he said.

Nyika has used the innovative project to help improve standards of living for marginalised rural communities through training communal and small-scale farmers in Bulawayo, Chegutu, Harare, Masvingo and Gweru.

With a first class Bachelor of Education (Hon) Degree in Agriculture, Nyika said plans were underway to take the project to other parts of the country, with training workshops lined up for Bindura and Chinhoyi in January next year.

“I am training them on rearing of BSF and stockfeed formulation. As they will be able to raise more chickens, their income will be improved,” he said, adding that he would use the workshops to impart the knowledge he received during training in maggot farming in South Africa.

Nyika noted that although maggot farming was still at a very low scale in the country, it had found a significant number of takers — some of whom were actually using houseflies to produce maggots — but he had been supplying them with the BSF larva to do away with houseflies which are vectors of diseases.

After harvesting the maggots, Nyika said they could be fed as live larva to livestock or alternatively killed using steam, dried in solar dryers and processed into stockfeed “through three stages which is crushing, mixing and pelletising”.

He underscored that although he had always been experimental while growing up, he had never imagined himself in this type of farming.

“In this current situation, entrepreneurs will make a living. It is under this situation that farmers will be tempted to make trials with new innovations, when all is well, farmers will be having no reason to test new things as they will be affording their regular supplies. An entrepreneur is one who sees an opportunity out of a problem in the society,” he said.

Nyika — who has been working with the Youth ministry and the Zimbabwe Youth Council as well as the Agriculture ministry — urged the government to promote up-and-coming innovators through helping young people to access services from the government and consider tax cuts for such innovations.

He highlighted that participating in the CBZ YEP programme afforded him the opportunity to receive mentorship and coaching that would help him improve the way he had been running his project.

He said apart from producing stockfeed from maggots known as MaggFeeds, he also sold live larva to those who wanted to start a similar project.

Nyika said he was currently awaiting the issuance of a stockfeed manufacturing licence from the Agriculture ministry to scale up his business.