A Scientific and Industrial Research And Development Centre agri-business research expert has encouraged Zimbabweans to take up potato production at their homesteads to enhance household food security and reduce the country’s dependency on imports. SIRDC agri-business expert Mr Ambrose Kavu told participants at a one-day workshop to train beginners in potato production that potatoes, which were the country’s second staple food had a ready market.
“Potatoes are short and seasonal crops as compared to maize and are a high income generating produce with a potential to improve an individual’s livelihood,” he said.
“People should go for training which can span from a day to a month and know the requirements of potato farming.”
Mr Kavu said it was critical for Zimbabwe to reduce its dependency on imported food crops.
“There are many health concerns on imported products since we get the lowest grade and we have no idea how the food is produced. The kind of treatments they use on preserving the products are also a cause of concern,’ he said.
“We are also promoting foreign agriculture since as a nation, our imports and exports are far from balancing.
“If we train more potato growers we can reduce the importation of food, mainly potatoes from South Africa and Brazil.”
The workshop was organised by a SIRDC unit which supports micro and small-to-medium enterprises through technical training and other support services.
The unit was offering training for beginners through monthly workshops to help those who want to venture into farming.
SIRDC has trained 1 120 people in potato production since January 2012.
Mr Kavu urged people to try potato production in sacks to help those without farm land to earn a living and improve their livelihoods.
The technology enables farmers with small pieces of land to produce large potato volumes using small amounts of fertiliser, water and labour input, something which is cheaper than venturing into potato production on a large piece of land.
It costs more than US$2 000 per hectare to produce potatoes, which is out of reach for smallholder farmers.
In the 2012-2013 cropping season, maize output fell from the annual 2,2 million metric tonnes to around 1,2 million metric tonnes.
Other food crops such as soyabean and wheat also recorded reduced yields.
Potatoes are fast providing the country with a viable cropping option to enhance the country’s food security.