SEED companies and donors should educate farmers on seed varieties to ensure they grow the right crop suitable for their respective farming regions, an expert has said.
In an interview, Federation of Farmers’ Unions (FFU) president Mr Wonder Chabikwa said the majority of farmers were not formally trained at agriculture training institutions hence they need to supplement their common knowledge about farming.
“Most farmers in Zimbabwe are passionate people in rural areas or on plots who did not go through formal training at agriculture training institutions so you cannot expect them to know about seed variations and rainfall patterns.
“We, therefore, urge seed companies and donors to train farmers not just donating or selling them seeds,” he said.
Mr Chabikwa said most seed houses flight eye-catching advertisements pointing out high yield potential of their products but giving less detail on how farmers can achieve bumper harvests.
“Especially with maize, seed companies advertise the yield potential in tonnes without explaining further on the de-merits of growing such a breed.
“Farmers rush for crops with high yielding potential without knowledge on how they are grown and the climatic conditions suitable for it.
“This is why you see farmers in regions three, four and five end up growing crops that require high rainfall instead of drought tolerant crops that suit their rainfall pattern. It is simply because their focus will be on yields more than the crop demands,” he said.
He said it was critical for farmers to be taught on weather forecasts and how to grow crops that are suitable for a certain season since temperatures and other conditions vary seasonally.
He said due to the prevailing economic challenges farmers tend to use any seed donation some of which may not be suitable for their regions.
“Farmers invest their money and equipment such that they wouldn’t want to make any loss.
“If for instance a farmer grows a high rainfall-demanding crop in region five, it means there is need for irrigation. If there is no such service then the harvest fails. This costs the nation which largely depends on agriculture,” he said.
He encouraged farmers to grow small grains since the rainfall is predicted to be normal to below normal this season.
“Those who have not yet planted should avoid maize because it’s too late, let’s go for small grain crops and definitely we will have harvests,” he said.
The agriculture sector is one of the country’s economic mainstays that contribute significantly to the Gross Domestic Product as well ensuring food security.
In recognition of the critical role played by the farming sector, the Government has in the past launched various schemes such as the Presidential Inputs Support Scheme as well as the Command Agriculture Programme with a view to boost output in the sector.–chronicle