‘Traditional grains must be prioritised in dryer regions’ Professor Obert Jiri

Victor Maphosa Mashonaland East Bureau

Farmers in region 4 and 5 and other areas that receive below normal rainfall have been urged to focus on growing traditional grains which are known to be far more drought-tolerant than maize.

The call was made by chief director in the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development for Agricultural and Rural Development Services (ARDS) Professor Obert Jiri while officiating at the Mudzi district agricultural show held at Nyamakuyo Primary School in Mudzi.

Mudzi district is in agro-ecological natural region 4 which frequently receives below normal rainfall.

Prof Jiri emphasised the importance of beneficiating farm produce before farmers sell this outside their districts or province.

“This district is suitable for traditional grains and I would like to urge our farmers to concentrate on these crops that include sorghum, pearl millet, finger millet and other grains like groundnuts and cow peas. Such crops can withstand the climatic conditions of the district,” he said.

“It is not advisable for you to grow maize, unless that is done under irrigation where a consistent water supply is guaranteed. If you want sadza prepared using maize, you can go to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) and exchange your grains with maize. As such, seed companies should strive to supply our shops here with varieties of seeds of traditional grains. Agro-dealers must not put in their stock seeds of crops that do not do well in this district.

“After harvesting, you must try your best to beneficiate your crops so that you benefit accordingly. If you sell your raw produce, you will be taking jobs and potential industrial activity elsewhere. My point is very simple. Unfinished products should not be taken out of the province.

“We therefore encourage you to process your traditional grains and sell the finished products elsewhere. By so doing, you will be creating local industries, no matter how small, and that will result in the development of your area,” he said.

ARDS director for Mashonaland East Mr Leonard Munamati said his office will continue engaging farmers in this region to convince them to priorities these traditional grains.

He took the opportunity to assure farmers under Pfumvudza/Intwasa that Government will always support them and they should prepare their plots now.

He said the Pfumvudza concept will continue under the Presidential Inputs Scheme and farmers will get support after preparing at least three plots.

“We are continuing with our preparations for the 2023/2024 summer cropping season and we have been engaging farmers and other key stakeholders in the agriculture industry to map the best way forward,” said Mr Munamati.

“The meetings are meant to make the best possible way forward when it comes to the funding of various farming programmes that have been put in the pipeline for the season.

“The popular Pfumvudza concept remains popular with farmers and that facility is available again for our farmers. The Government has been adequately supporting this programme over the years but this time around, we will be considering agro-ecological matching when distributing the inputs.

“In simple terms, the growing of the maize crop will only be supported in agro-ecological natural regions 1, 2 and 3.

“When it comes to natural regions 4 and 5, our farmers must put their focus on growing traditional grains like sorghum, pearl millet, finger millet and other grains like groundnuts and cow peas. This time around, we are emphasising on variety appropriateness in each and every area in the province. The bottom line is that the correct variety or varieties should only be sent and grown in an area according to its ecological environment.

“In natural regions 1 and 2, each farmer should prepare a mandatory three plots for maize.

“The other two plots should include sunflower, groundnuts or any other small grains. For natural region 3, it’s two mandatory maize plots while the other plots will comprise of any other small grains.

“In region 4, we want farmers to prepare two mandatory plots for small grains which should be either sorghum or millets. The other one is a mandatory sunflower plot.

“In natural regions 4 and 5, maize seed will only be distributed to farmers with irrigation mechanisms, so we will prioritise irrigation schemes under the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (ARDA) management model.”

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