CHIRUMHANZU: Villagers in drought-prone Chirumhanzu district have resorted to growing drought resistant crops, a solution they say has solved their farming misfortunes amid the recent floods that has affected harvests in many parts of the country.
The villagers say they used to grow maize crop and through various media programs, they have been educated and realized that the erratic rains were affecting the maize crop, which they had traditionally been trying amid yielding small or no harvests.
“The more prolonged dry spells had us revisiting the need to grow drought resistant crops such as sorghum and wheat and they are doing well amid the increased rains this season. It is against such a background that we have turned to drought resistant crops in response to climate change and the ElNino induced dry spells,” a villager, Innocent Dube said.
“We are traditionally used to planting the maize crop, but through various farming programs published mainly on radio, we have tried small grains and they are doing so well,” added another villager, Felistus Chigumbu.
According to farming experts, Zimbabwe is among Southern African countries that need to embrace small grains to avert the impact of related disasters.
“Drought refers to lack of rains and above average pours and surely small grains have a life under specific conditions to survive superfluous rains. I say so because if an area is well drained, small grains suffer no effects and only that crop that is planted on poorly drained areas may suffer a poor yield,” said agriculture expert Misheck Maravanyika.
The marginal areas of the country, particularly natural Regions 111, IV and V are characterized by high temperatures and erratic rains.
Research has however argued that besides the notable increase in farming of small grains, locals still use a large chunk of their land to plant maize for reasons among them labor costs that come with farming small grains.
“Small holder farmers in Zimbabwe face labor related challenges in sorghum and millet production which lead them to prefer maize production. These challenges include the heavy burden of cultivating sorghum and millet in comparison to maize and thus conservation farming becomes unsuitable for the elderly farmers,” wrote Keith Phiti in a paper titled Small grains ‘resistance’? Making sense of Zimbabwean small holder farmers’ cropping choices and patterns within a climate change context.
“Livestock depends upon crop residues for survival during the winter, mainly from maize stalks. Small grains do not offer fodder for cattle, unlike maize which feeds both the farmers and their livestock,” the researcher added.
Small grains include varieties such as sorghum, pearl and finger millet in Zimbabwe.