Dr. Marty Riche: 2016 Volunteer of the Year Award Nominee
Dr. Marty Riche is a research professor of Fish Nutrition at Florida Atlantic University who travelled to Malawi through the Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) program to help an association scale up its aquaculture farms. Dr. Riche holds a Ph.D. in Aquatic Animal Nutrition and has over 30 years of professional experience in aquaculture as a researcher, professor and fisheries manager. Through the volunteer assistance of Dr. Riche, the farmers’ association has been successful in increasing their production, expanding their business, and improving the fish value chain in Southern Malawi. Fish are an importance component to the Malawian diet, both because of its nutritional value and because of its availability due to Malawi’s abundance of lakes and ponds. Although Malawi is a landlocked country, approximately 10 to 25 percent of the total land area is suitable for aquaculture. The government in Malawi has recognized the importance of the aquaculture industry, and has funded projects to support farmers’ associations, such as the Chilomoni Integrated Fish Farmers (CIFF).
CIFF was founded in 2004 through a Malawi Government project called Irrigation, Rural Livelihood and Agriculture Development. With the assistance of the government program, members of CIFF began raising and selling fish to their surrounding community in Blantyre. Although there is high demand, the members of CIFF struggled with production due to a lack of knowledge on modern fish farming practices and problems affording commercial fish feed. That’s why in September of 2015, Dr. Marty Riche volunteered with F2F through CNFA to train CIFF fish farmers and provide them with the technical knowledge they needed.
Dr. Riche trained the 57 members of CIFF on pond maintenance, sourcing of fingerlings, breeding and reproduction, harvesting and record keeping, health and stress management, parasite and disease control and harvesting of fish. Since CIFF was unable to afford commercial fish feeds, Dr. Riche also trained the association on all aspects of feeding: fish nutrition, diet formulation, feed production and supplemental feeding. As a result of Dr. Riche’s volunteer assistance, CIFF improved their pond management, increased their fish harvest and have since expanded their business operations to also supply fish spawn and produce fish food.
The original goals of Dr. Riche’s assignment was to improve the quality and quantity of fish, and improve the income of CIFF employees—but Dr. Riche’s dedication to the assignment went above and beyond these goals. Compared with the harvest the year before Dr. Riche’s assignment, the association has increased their fish production by 150% and are now able to grow larger fish that sell at a much higher price point. This yield increase has doubled the association’s annual income from $2,432 USD to $4,900 USD, and increased CIFF’s net income from $0 USD to $750 USD. Mr. Henry Kuchonde, a CIFF farmer, remarked, “We couldn’t believe our eyes when we saw the sizes of some of the fish coming out of our ponds.” Dr. Riche also supplied the necessary technical knowledge on fish feed formulation and spawn development for CIFF members to continue expanding their business.
Since the volunteer assignment, CIFF farmers have begun to raise and sell their own high-quality fingerlings to outside fish farmers. During his assignment, Dr. Riche noted, “I anticipate the host could substantially increase their economic wellbeing relative to their overall fish yields. If the CIFF follow the recommendation to produce their own fingerlings, their yields should increase… producing their own fingerlings could represent a significant side stream revenue which would benefit their economic wellbeing tremendously.” The members of CIFF have taken that recommendation as well as a few others, and have since improved their pond management, constructed fingerling production ponds and are identifying and purchasing the necessary feed ingredients. Overall, Dr. Riche’s volunteer assistance has enabled the association to develop the tools they needed to significantly scale up their operation and sizably improve household incomes, strengthening livelihoods and building long-term technical abilities.
This article was originally written by CNFA.