Buhera Central on track to tackle food insecurity Mr Wadzanayi Magaisa scouting his field in Buhera.

Precious Manomano and Talent Chimutambgi

The Buhera community has partnered the Great Zimbabwe University in the production and value addition of traditional grains as part of efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Buhera lies in the agro ecological regions 4 and 5 of Manicaland and the area receives low rainfall which is not suitable for production of other grains such as maize.

The partnership through facilitated by Buhera Central Member of Parliament Cde Sam Matema has allowed the community to produce traditional grains and ensure household food and nutrition security while at the same time getting an income from the drought tolerant crop.

Under the partnership, the University provides seed and fertilisers to contracted growers who in turn sell the produce to the institution which adds value to the commodity.

Great Zimbabwe University is also involved in the research, extension, training and marketing activities of traditional grains in the area.

The university is buying traditional grains at US$300 per tonne.

Through this strategy, the community is not only diversifying their food sources, but also creating a more sustainable and resilient agricultural system that can withstand the effects of climate change. 

A number of farmers in Buhera have been trying to grow traditional grains such as sorghum and millets but lack of lucrative markets had been a major challenge hindering production.

Thus many were forced to turn to maize which has a ready market.

Production of traditional grains is in line with Government’s initiatives of achieving national food and nutrition security. Government through the Grain Marketing Board also buys traditional grains at competitive producer prices.

Government has always been promoting the production of crops suitable for ecological regions and made it mandatory for areas in region 4 and 5 to produce traditional grains.

Only those farmers with irrigation facilities in region 4 and 5 receive maize seed to be produced under the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (ARDA) management model.

Ward 23 Councillor Mrs Decide Tarwirei said many people had abandoned production of traditional grains due to lack of lucrative markets.

 In most cases, those who produced sorghum and millet would barter trade in exchange of basic commodities.

Few takers of the traditional grains forced farmers to sell at unviable prices while others exchanged traded the sorghum and millets with old clothes.

This year, Cllr Tarwirei is expecting three tonnes from her plot, despite the current dry weather conditions.

Farmers who planted maize in Buhera this season have started counting their losses as the persistent dry spell is threatening yields. 

“Traditional grains are important to this region because the area does not receive enough rainfall. If you look at those who have planted maize, signs of moisture stress are showing, but our millet is still flourishing,” said Cllr Tarwirei

 “The initiative that was accelerated by our legislator Cde Matema will propel development in our constituency. We have increased production of traditional grains to ensure household food security,” she said.

Cllr Tarwirei encouraged women to venture into the initiative to empower themselves.

“Women should take up this initiative seriously, this can free us from the bondage of inferiority. We are now able to eat highly nutritious and healthy food, provide for our families and send our children to school using proceeds from the production of traditional grains. This also reduces cases of gender-based violence. We want women to become independent,” she said.

Speaking on behalf of Chief Nyashanu, Mr Richard Kandenga said production of traditional grains was also important in upholding culture and tradition.

He said the programme of contracting villagers to boost traditional grains farming would preserve their culture. 

“Traditional grains are very vital as they are used in conducting various ceremonies including rain making ceremonies held to mark the advent of every rain season.

“In mountain Chiurwi and Chitezwa there is still rapoko which was left during the ancient times by our forefathers. Around September we brew beer using the traditional as a way of appeasing ancestors to provide us with good rains,” he said.

Another farmer, Mr Wadzanai Magaisa said he was expecting to get more than two tonnes and vowed to increase the hectarage next season. 

“We have a good relationship with GZU. They promised us viable prices. We have water problems so we are also appealing for irrigation schemes. We are planning to increase hectares of traditional grains. We are also happy with the viable market,” said Mr Magaisa. 

Buhera Central legislator, Cde Matema said he was toeing President Mnangagwa’s call of living no one and no place behind.

Speaking during a Constituency tour recently, Cde Matema said the project was well established and was overwhelmingly embraced by all stakeholders including the community.

“Farmers, traders, processors, consumers and policy makers are working round the clock to improve the quality and quantity of traditional grain production, processing and consumption,” he said.

Cde Matema said the university was reviving production of some varieties that were becoming extinct.

 Recently the university bought 25 tonnes of finger millet from the farmers.

 “After a critical analysis of what is supposed to be done in my constituency, and also checking from the goals of the Second Republic hinged on the National Development Strategies (NDS) 1, led by President Mnangagwa, we entered into partnership with GZU as part of encouraging our community to secure food security and sustainable development in the constituency.

“We want to turn this part of the country into a green belt through implementing various initiatives that will propel the vision. 

“The programme has received a lot of support from the community with all stakeholders coming on board to tackle the challenges emanating from climate change,” he said. 

The constituency is also working on increasing the area under irrigation to and currently Bangure irrigation scheme is supporting 80 households. Cde Matema appealed to the community to take responsibility of the infrastructure including irrigation equipment in their community to ensure development.

He expressed concern over the vandalism of some irrigation equipment.

Solar panels were vandalised and power is no longer adequate for supplying water to fields. Cde Matema said he was working round the clock to restore the vandalised system and also ensuring the people have access to health facilities.

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