Zim achieves traditional grains milestone Dr John Basera

Precious Manomano Herald Reporter

Farmers have produced more traditional grains this year, as they diversify to fight the effects of climate change and ensure there is adequate food for the country and their families and that they can make a profit from farming even in areas where maize is a dubious venture most years.

Finger millet production increased by 250 percent from 5 320 tonnes in the 2021-2022 season to 18 610 tonnes this season, more than tripling in value in just two years.

Pearl millet production has increased by 61 percent in the 2022-2023 season from 44 143 tonnes the previous season to 71 221 tonnes this season, while sorghum has increased by 32,14 percent in the 2022-2023 season.

Pearl millet yields also increased to 41 percent from 0,27 tonnes per hectare to 0,38 tonnes per hectare.

Under finger millet production, Manicaland has produced a record of 5 696 tonnes compared to 1 188 tonnes produced last season.

Masvingo produced 4 976 tonnes compared to 2 085 tonnes last season, with Mashonaland East producing 4 207 tonnes compared to 1 339 tonnes produced last season.

With pearl millet, Manicaland also had the highest production of 20 854 tonnes compared to 4 302 produced last season, followed by Matabeleland North which produced 17 670 tonnes compared to 17 071 tonnes last season.

Masvingo produced 12 598 tonnes compared to 9 126 produced last season, while Matabeleland South produced 9 679 compared to 9 314 tonnes produced last season.

The communal sector dominated sorghum production, accounting for 86 percent of total production.

However, the average yields are still low compared to the large-scale commercial farms, A2, and old resettlement sectors.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Dr John Basera, wants Regions 4, 5a and 5b to grow traditional grains as a way to promote and climate-proof agriculture. The Pfumvudza/Intwasa inputs reflect this new stress, with farmers on the scheme in theseregions not getting maize seed at all, instead having the traditional grains as their summer grain crop. Traditional grains also form part of the package in better watered areas.

Government’s push not to leave no one and no place behind in its developmental programmes, is set to see farmers in dry regions, considered marginal or unsuitable for maize growing, benefiting from the value addition of traditional grains.

“We are on a big ride to promote traditional grains in Zimbabwe and this is the sure way of promoting and climate-proofing agriculture.

“Government put in place a number of policies and interventions to promote the production of traditional grains. We also introduced an incentive for a premium price of traditional grains and we introduced a grain swap scheme. We appreciate our smallholder farming sector,” he said.

To promote traditional grains production, the Government is targeting to increase the area under the crop to 700 000 ha in the next summer cropping season as a measure to address the effects of a possible drought and improve food security.

Zimbabwe Indigenous Women Farmers Association Trust president, Mrs Depinah Nkomo, said it was crucial for farmers to grow what is best achieved in their regions.

“Most farmers are now considering traditional crops because of favourable returns. I encourage farmers to grow traditional grains as they perform better than maize and grow even under drought.

“We are also sure of food security if we also prioritise traditional grains farming,” she said.

Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president Dr Shadreck Makombe recently said farmers were diversifying to traditional crops.

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