Elita Chikwati and Tanyaradzwa Mutizwa
Stakeholders have endorsed the Pfumvudza concept as a noble idea that would result in increased agricultural productivity and ensure food security and nutrition in the country.
Pfumvudza promotes climate proofing agriculture by adopting conservation farming techniques and involves the utilisation of small pieces of land and applying the correct agronomic practices for higher returns.
Under the Pfumvudza concept, communal farmers will have to practice conservation agriculture for them to benefit under the Presidential Inputs Scheme which has since been transformed into the Climate-Proofed Presidential Inputs Programme.
The concept, which will be applied to maize, traditional grains and oil seeds, will also commercialise smallholder agriculture.
Small-scale farmers across all eight rural provinces have been given the target of 1,8 million tonnes of cereals and 360 000 tonnes of oil seeds in the forthcoming summer cropping season.
Analytical evidence from the World Bank’s Agriculture Sector Risk Assessment Report stressed the need to strengthen Zimbabwe’s resilience to agricultural risk, particularly for small-scale producers who rely mostly on rain-fed agriculture.
The report noted that future climate change projection of hotter and drier conditions, coupled with frequent and more severe weather were likely to reduce crop and animal production.
From the analytics, climate-related shocks like drought result in millions of dollars getting lost due to crop losses.
“For example, in the drought year of 2001, the value on the crop loss in production was approximately US$126 million and in 2008 when drought and financial restrictions affected agriculture there was an estimated crop loss value of $513 million.
“It is important for Zimbabwe’s agriculture sector to climate proof and invest in climate smart agriculture practices like the Pfumvudza conservation agriculture spearheaded by the Government. Through Pfumvudza, the Government has created an enabling environment necessary to move to a more productive and resilient agriculture sector,” read the report.
World Bank senior agriculture specialist, Dr Esther Chigumira, said the said Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) practices could help improve agricultural productivity in a way that is both resilient to future uncertainties.
“The bank supports the Government of Zimbabwe with evidence-based analytics for decision making,” she said.
“One of these analytical products is the soon to be launched Climate Smart Agriculture Investment Plan (CSAIP).”
The launch is expected between September and October.
Dr Chigumira said the CSAIP, which was supported by the Zimbabwe Reconstruction Fund (ZIMREF), identified and prioritised investment packages for CSA investment policy and actions for the country that would support the three key CSA pillars, namely the achievement of a more productive, resilient and low emissions agriculture sector.
The CSAIP Investment Package encompasses water harvesting for resilient crop and livestock production and points to investment in soil and water conservation techniques as part of an integrated catchment management that incorporates water, land and environmental sectors, which Dr Chigumira said aligned with the Government’s Pvumvudza concept.
Food and Agriculture Organisation deputy regional representative for Africa Ms Jocelyn Brown Hall congratulated Zimbabwe for rolling out the conservation agriculture initiative to smallholder farmers across the country this farming season.
“Since early 2000s when FAO country office championed conservation agriculture in Zimbabwe, it was our belief that it is the panacea to national and household food security, especially among smallholder farmers,” she said.
“The vagaries of weather over the past consecutive years have seen the need for bold policy decision to roll out the initiative across the country. FAO Zimbabwe fully supports your initiative of using Conservation Agriculture (Pfumvudza) to climate-proof the negative weather conditions brought by drought.
“As FAO, we are ready to share our experiences as well as provide technical support whenever you need it. FAO has a wealth of experience of conservation agriculture, having collaborated with various institutions, among them Foundations for Farming in promoting conservation agriculture in Zimbabwe.
“During the 2019/20 season FAO, under the Livelihoods and Food Security Programme (LFSP) actively promoted the Pfumvudza concept in 10 districts. Lessons from these initiatives will go a long way towards supporting the government Pfumvudza drive.”
Women in agriculture have embraced the climate smart agriculture technique.
The Foundations for Farming, a Christian-based organisation first introduced the Pfumvudza concept in 2011 using the name conservation agriculture.
The organisation has trained farmers around the country on the correct way to go about this climate smart agriculture practice for over nine years and it has been yielding the desired results for many smallholder farmers around the country.
The Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement recently joined in the promotion of the Pfumvudza concept and have been doing nationwide trainings for agriculture extension officers and farmers with a target of training at least 100 000 farmers by the end of this year.
Under this trainer of trainers programme, Foundations for Farming sent 10 trainers in all the country’s 10 provinces and to date, 1 498 Agritex officers have been trained on the climate smart agriculture technique.
Mr William Tom, the Head of Training for Foundations for Farming said in Madziva, Mashonaland Central Province, under the “I was hungry” programme, the organisation successfully trained farmers in 15 villages.
“Thirty people were identified per village and among them one has to be a widow and they would do demonstrations on the widow’s plot and would leave a bag of inputs on every farm they demonstrated,” he said.
“This meant the land preparation which involves the digging of holes, compost making and spreading mulch was done for the widows during demonstrations.
“This programme is one of the many success stories that have produced results and equipped small holder farmers with self-sustenance skills. One widow in Madziva harvested 19 by 50kg bags of maize on a 643square metre plot.”
Women and Land in Zimbabwe national director Mrs Thandiwe Chidavaruma in an interview with this publication said her organisation lobbies for preserving the land being used now for future generations and Pfumvudza is a form of conservation agriculture which not only preserves the land, but also adds nutrients to it.
“With regards to Pfumvudza, we are happy that the initiative will increase women access to land through the Government drive which entails that each rural household or farmer will get a pfumvudza plot,” she said.
“This will also enable women to benefit from the input packages to be given to selected 305 farmers per ward.”
Mrs Chidavaruma said the Pfumvudza concept will destroy the gender stereotypes that it is the male farms which should be planted first because the Pfumvudza plot land preparation starts in winter, giving female farmers have ample time to prepare for the next season.
“We have noticed that due to climate change, those planting with the first rains are guaranteed to get something and usually male-owned fields and crops will be planted first and when the moisture content is low they would plant the women’s fields, but with Pfumvudza the female plots will be prepared and planted way before the onset of the rains,” said Mrs Chidavaruma.
“We are appreciating this move by the Government and also recognising that climate change is here to stay as such we need to find ways of co-existing climate change, thus the pfumvudza or conservation agriculture, as many have been calling it.”