Smallholder, communal farmers poised for another bumper harvest

Source: Smallholder, communal farmers poised for another bumper harvest | Sunday News (Business)

Judith Phiri, Business Reporter
THE country is poised for another bumper harvest in the forthcoming summer cropping season if smallholder and communal farmers who had a successful 2021-2022 summer cropping season get adequate support, experts have said.

This also comes as the Meteorological Services Department has forecasted that there will be average to above-average rains in the forthcoming summer cropping season.

Zimbabwe had a bumper harvest in the 2020-2021 summer cropping season where the country had in excess of two million tonnes of maize.

A majority of the crop came from smallholder and communal farmers most of which implemented the zero tillage farming method Pfumvudza/Intwasa which was also aided by the Presidential Input Support Scheme.  Close to 1,6 million families benefited from the programme which also came with free inputs.

Agricultural research experts have implored Government to invest more in smallholder and communal farmers who have been pivotal in ensuring food security by developing new varieties of plants that adapt to changing climates and are pest and disease free.

Some local companies such as SeedCo have already started introducing new “Climate Smart” seed varieties that are adaptive to climate change and are pest and disease free. The company has introduced four “Climate Smart” seed varieties ahead of the summer cropping season.

As the country prepares for the forthcoming 2021-2022 summer cropping season, agricultural experts most of them doing research at local universities said the development of new varieties of plants was important to the country’s food security.

Experts said the development of new seed varieties improves agricultural productivity as well as providing farmers with high yielding pest and disease free seed.

SeedCo commercial agronomist, Mr Ronnie Chigombe said the meteorological department’s seasonal weather forecast has projected that there would  be average to above average rains this year.

“Farmers should plant their crops without doubt because we are going to have good rains this season. Farmers should also know the type of soil that they have and the type of region they are in. This will help them in planting the appropriate seed,” he said.

Mr Chigombe said the company had introduced new seed varieties ahead of the summer cropping season to allow farmers to fully prepare on time and to plant the appropriate seed.

“We have introduced four seed varieties this season to cope with changing climates. We had SC 403 which most farmers call Tsoko and we have introduced a new variety SC419 which is also Tsoko but matures faster and is pest resistant.

This variety, which is an early maturity crop, is suitable in regions three and four. We have also introduced SC555 Mbizi suitable for the same regions. We have also introduced SC659 Shumba and SC 729 Nzou for regions One, Two and Three,” he said.

In a research titled “Implications of ARIPO’s Arusha protocol for the protection of new plant varieties on Zimbabwe’s smallholder organic farmers’ right to development”, Africa University lecturer and researcher, Mr Gabriel Muzah said through analysing the diverse food crops that are being grown in Zimbabwe, farmer managed seed systems stand out as the most reliable.

“Farmer managed seed systems stand out as the most reliable and affordable source of seeds for most smallholder organic farmers.

This informal farmer managed seed system is an old practice in Zimbabwe that was derived from the understanding that seed was inherited from the past generations as a resource that was given by the creator,” said Mr Muzah.

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