Surge in demand for traditional seeds Dr Charles Dhewa

Ashton Mutyavaviri

ZIMBABWE’s mass markets are witnessing a notable increase in demand for traditional seeds as farmers strive to ensure food security amid unpredictable weather patterns. 

This came against Government’s call for farmers to recognise the importance of preserving traditional seed varieties which offer resilience in the face of predicted normal to below-normal rainy season.

Knowledge Transfer Africa (KTA) chief executive Dr Charles Dhewa said the country’s mass markets played a crucial role in providing a platform for traditional grains to gain more value and compete with mainstream products.

“We are seeing demand for traditional seed such as finger millet (zviyo) and groundnuts in our mass markets as many people are buying for seed. As some of the retail shops are failing to supply traditional seeds and others are selling it at exorbitant prices, most farmers are turning into the mass markets to get the seed,” he said.

Dr Dhewa said there was an increase in the purchase of traditional grain seeds as people across the country seek to ensure food security in view of climate change which reflects a growing trend among farmers to rely on traditional crops that can better withstand drought.

Traditional seed varieties have adapted over generations to local climatic conditions, making them more resilient to drought, pests and diseases that are prevalent in the region. 

Climate change continues to pose challenges to Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector, farmers are turning to these traditional seeds to mitigate risks and ensure higher yields, he explained.

“By conserving and utilising traditional seed varieties, farmers can adapt to changing environmental conditions while meeting the nutritional needs of the population,” said Dr Dhewa.

Agricultural and Rural Development Advisory Services (ARDAS) weekly report dated October 2, 2023 confirmed Government was targeting 200 000 hectares of pearl millet nationwide, 73 423 hectares were self-financed and 126 577 hectares were under Pfumvudza/Intwasa. It was also targeting a sorghum national record of 350 000 hectares split as 250 000 hectares for Pfumvudza/Intwasa, 66 950 hectares for self-financed farmers, 11 050 hectares for the private sector, 20 000 hectares for other banks and 2 000 for National Enhanced Agricultural Production Scheme (NEAPS).

The value attached to traditional grains which had over the years been so low with some people viewing them as crops for the vulnerable, have become popular due to recognition of their health and nutritional value.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union (ZCFU) president Dr Shadreck Makombe said farmers were diversifying back to traditional crops because of their higher demand on the market and the awareness campaigns being carried out on the importance of healthy food.

“More people are now health-conscious with some restaurants now even serving traditional food. Long back, demand for traditional was low as the food was perceived to be for the poor. Now the affluent are the ones who demand traditional food and this has increased their demand and value on the market,” he added.

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