Matabeleland farmers embrace conservation agriculture

More than one million farmers have so far been trained on conservation agriculture commonly referred to as “Pfumvudza”.

The Government targets to train 1,8 million farmers by mid-September.

Farmers in Matabeleland region have embraced the model, which is set to boost food production and enhance climate change resilience at community level.

Under the Pfumvudza concept, farmers prepare the land and make the mulch before the onset of the rains.

Farmers can plant maize or sorghum for strategic grain reserves as well as cash crops such as soya bean and sunflower.

The concept is based on three main principles of conservation agriculture which is minimum soil disturbance, crop rotation and use of mulching. Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement Secretary, Dr John Bhasera, said the Pfumvudza concept was meant to ensure household food security while the surplus will be directed towards the Stategic Grain Reserves.

“Government is targeting to support more than 1,8 million households with a standard input package for three Pfumvudza plots. Two plots are for cereals (maize or small grains while the third plot is for oil seeds,” he said.

Dr Bhasera said each farmer was expected to harvest at least one tonne of cereals and about 200kg of oil seeds which gives a total output of 1,8 million tonnes of cereals which meets the national requirement.

“The programme is targeted at ensuring household food self sufficiency as well as commercialising the smallholder sector as surplus output will be sold to Government,” he said.

Dr Bhasera said if it succeeds, the programme will bring about adequate food security at household level and ensure economic stability.

“The programme will also boost incomes for smallholder farmers and we think this is a game changer in terms of climate proofing agriculture. The Presidential Input Programme will this year adopt conservation agriculture, which is centred on four principles which are — minimum soil disturbance, residues retention or application of mulch to create a blanket of cover, which conserves moisture, religious adoption of crop rotation and the general adoption of Good Agronomic Practices (GAPs).”

Dr Bhasera said most farmers had embraced the concept, which is expected to boost agricultural productivity countrywide.

“The programme and concept have been well received as smallholder farmers countrywide are now busy preparing the land. Input distribution has already started and soon farmers will be collecting their inputs at designated points or GMB depots.

“By October all farmers should be ready to plant with the first rains,” said Dr Bhasera.

Business Chronicle visited one of the beneficiaries of the programme in Malalume village in Bulilima district during the tour of Bulilima West Constituency by Member of Parliament, Cde Dingumuzi Phuthi.

Agriculture extension officer for Ward 14, Mrs Moreblessing Chikamhi told Cde Phuti that the concept encourages farmers to concentrate resources on a small piece of land hence high productivity.

“So far in my area I have trained 356 farmers on the Pfumvudza Concept since July and the adoption rate is 65 percent,” she said.

The trained farmers are from Malalume, Malopa, Mafeha and Tsheguta villages.

“The concept promotes precision farming and encourage farmers to concentrate their resources on small pieces of land hence high productivity from low investment.”

Mrs Chikamhi said planting was expected to start mid-November and those with reliable sources of water can plant earlier.

“Supplementary irrigation is advisable especially during dry spell period to avoid crop failure. In addition, Pfumvudza also encourages soil reconditioning whereby soil sampling, testing and liming will be done so that farmers would know lime and nutrient requirement of their soil,” she said.

One of the farmers from Malalume village, Councillor Delani Mabhena, said they were ready for planting.

“We are in the process of enriching the soils. We have been taught and as farmers in the rural areas we are dedicated to play our part in food security.

“This is a project that if followed well will alleviate poverty at homes and will inspire more people to take up agriculture as a business thereby reviving our economy,” said Clr Mabhena. –

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