MEET YAMIKANI

The Mastercard Foundation - EARTH University Fellowship Program

Yamikani Maya Ng’ona

Country: Malawi
Track: Entreprenuership
Project: Together We Can
Business incubator affiliated: Mhub Malawi
About position: Along with her cofounder Jireh, Yamikani will help train unemployed youth and women to sustainably and innovatively cultivate oyster mushrooms of high quality from low-cost materials that will be sold at the local markets. Link to pitch.

Yamikani is the fourth of five children. Although she grew up in the city, she was never far from agriculture, often visiting her grandparent’s farm. As she explains, “In my country, if you have lots of maize you are considered wealthy because our food staple nsima is made from maize flour. Knowing my grandparents had maize made me feel comfortable knowing I wasn’t going to die of hunger.”

With three older sisters also studying, finances were very tight and she had to find ways to support herself and pay tuition fees. She negotiated a job as a classroom assistant in an effort to reduce her debts to her school and enable her to take the end-of-year exams. She held leadership roles as Chairperson of the Student Christian Organization and Vice President of the Wildlife Club. She also coordinated a community tree-planting project, sourcing native seeds and planting nearly 500 trees.

Yamikani found out about EARTH and knew right away that was where she wanted to study. “I knew that at EARTH I’d get the kind of education and experience I need to make a difference back home. When I was young, I thought I wanted to be a lawyer, and as I grew up I realized that I don’t want to be someone who works for the benefit of only themselves. With agriculture, I believe I can help others in my community and my country.”

After graduating from high school, Yamikani moved to northern Malawi and volunteered with International Citizenship Services, working with at-risk girls to encourage them to continue their education and informing them about the risks of teen pregnancy, which has been a significant issue in the region.

For Yamikani, the entrepreneurial project program at EARTH was one of her most memorable experiences. “I worked with students from many other cultures and backgrounds. It was not always easy.” She describes it as an intense process when sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, which she believes will serve her well in the future. She says that when she first came to EARTH, she wasn’t exactly sure what she wanted the focus of her studies to be, but she now knows that she wants to return to Malawi to help create sustainable farming practices that are also profitable.

With agriculture, I believe I can help others in my community and my country. – Yamikani

Yamikani completed her third-year internship in Malawi at Project Concern International (PCI), on a project that focused on improved agricultural practices to strengthen control of the Fall Army Worm (FAW). She was in charge of data collection and developed a tool to gather information about the demonstration plots. During her fourth year, she completed her graduation project titled Evaluation of a Push-pull Strategy using Pennisetum purpureum and Brachiaria brizantha cv Mulato II (trap crops), and Melinis minutiflora (repellent crop) to manage Spodoptera frugiperda (worm) in Maize in the Humid Tropics of Central America. She chose this topic because this worm is prevalent in the maize in Malawi. “It is in our staple food and it is hurting us.”

Yamikani won a prize from the Mastercard Foundation 2019 Social Venture Challenge and funding from the Social Enterprise fund to support her mushroom farm project, which she is working on together with a fellow EARTH alumni. MUSHECO Farm will train unemployed youth and women in Mzuzu, Malawi to cultivate high-quality oyster mushrooms.

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