THIS past week I was talking to the Manicaland crop and livestock officer, Mrs Phillipa Rwambiwa, who informed me that her province had since completed training of farmers and extension officers on proper ways of rolling out the Pfumvudza/Intwasa concept that was pivotal in the nation’s attainment of a bumper harvest last season.
Manicaland province has also set October 1 as the deadline for the completion of input distribution under Government -initiated programmes — Pfumvudza and Agro-Yield, with farmers currently busy preparing their plots ahead of the 2021/22 cropping season, Mrs Rwambiwa hinted.
Manicaland is just one of the many provinces that have already gotten the ball rolling in terms of preparations for the forthcoming 2021/22 farming season and from the intelligence I am gathering there will be an influx of débutante Pfumvudza farmers this coming season.
Naturally, many people have realised the benefits that come with the concept and will also want to be part of the winning team.
It is, however, crucial for such farmers to do things the right way lest we end up with very big numbers of participants, but without nothing to show for it in terms of yields. First-time farmers need to consult their agricultural extension officers so that they can be enrolled for training.
Training of both farmers and extension officers is currently underway countrywide to enhance their capacity to roll out Pfumvudza effectively.
Farmers must realise that requirements for the successful roll out of the concept do not always fall under the ‘one-size-fits-all’ bracket as some of the training can be tailor-made for different individuals’ tastes, hence the need to receive expert instruction before and during the programme.
Farmers intending to implement the concept under the Government’s programme should also remember to approach their Agritex offices for registration so that they get inputs and extension services that come with the package while those doing it independently should also be free to approach Agritex officers for assistance.
Though regarded as labour intensive by many, the concept has proved helpful to resource-constrained farmers that do not have draft power or mechanised implements such as tractors and rippers to use for land preparation.
Of course, highly -mechanised farmers may not need to produce all their crops using the concept, but can just do it on a small piece of land lest the weather proves to be not so friendly in the absence of irrigation.
Generally, the majority of farmers across the country are not adequately resourced to irrigate their crops, which makes Pfumvudza a very reliable option for them since the concept allows them to make the most of the little moisture they may chance to have.
The fact that everything from planting to fertilisation takes place in the planting station dug during land preparation gives the concept some edge over conventional farming methods in that the hole traps the moisture that is brought by the rains and keeps it for plant use.
It is exciting to note that this year farmers will not face the uphill task of gathering materials to use as mulch from long distances following the high prevalence of biomass that was created by the above normal rains that fell across the country.
There is a lot of vegetative matter and grasses that farmers can harvest to use for mulching, which will make it easy for them to trap moisture as well as suppress weeds that normally compete with plants for nutrients.
The other advantage with mulching is that the material later decomposes to form organic nutrients needed by plants, so the concept takes care of a number of issues that should under ordinary circumstances give the farmer a few anxious moments.
Mulching will also allow farmers to conserve the residual moisture currently in the soil after the 2020/21 season that had lots of rains.
For now, farmers should be focusing on securing inputs starting from the seed, fertilisers (both basal and top dressing) so that whatever quantities they will get from Government will not fall short of meeting their targets. The other important activity farmers should not forget to undertake now is soil testing so that they know the pH levels of their soils and correct them in time.
If the soils need potash levels to be corrected, then there will be time for the farmers to apply lime and plant on soils that will not disappoint them.
Liming must be done three months before planting.
It is also necessary for farmers to start digging their holes now so that the manure they put inside will get time to complete decomposition to allow plants to utilise the nutrients when they germinate.
On the one hand, once the hole-digging is completed and the holes have been covered, farmers must remember to fence off the fields from roaming livestock so that the planting stations are not trampled upon.
One other important thing the farmers must remember is to practise crop rotation and for this one they need to engage their extension officers for advice so that they do not destroy the soil’s production capacity.
Crop rotation will also allow them to manage some pests and diseases that normally have a negative impact on yields.
Pfumvudza/Intwasa is most likely to be over-subscribed this season after many farmers saw how those that produced crops using the concept performed last season.
In all cases, it is the farmer that benefits because from the two plots that they are encouraged to use, one will take care of their domestic needs while the other goes to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) to beef up the strategic grain reserves of the country.
That portion does not go free, of course, as the farmer is paid even if they have used inputs from Government.
The Pfumvudza/Intwasa programme is creating a win-win situation for both Government and farmers because both parties are walking out richer from the deal, which is benefiting the economy too.
And given such a scenario, it becomes crucial for all the parties included to play ball and make the next outing even more successful than the previous one when everyone was still at the learning stage.
The success of the concept and survival into the future, however, hinges on the fact that farmers must not embrace it because they are getting inputs from Government, but for its being a system that allows them to salvage yields even if a season is bad.
The fact that it climate-proofs farming operations should be the biggest factor attracting farmers to it and not the inputs because it may die a natural death once the inputs are no longer there.