The adoption of new farming techniques has proved to be a difficult transition for many rural farmers in Zimbabwe from the traditional practices they used to do for years. It did not take that much time to convince Kerida Kuona of Chimundege Village though.
Farming in an area prone to mid-season dry spells can be threatening for a widow like Kerida who has to toil hard to put food on the table for her two children. Prior to acquiring new techniques and skills from the Ensuring Nutrition, Transforming and Empowering Rural farmers and Promoting Resilience in Zimbabwe (ENTERPRIZE) project, she single-handedly raised her family through traditional farming.
Using only a hand-held hoe, Kerida planted a single crop variety, sorghum. She would often harvest poorly. After the training, she learned a lot and made some changes in the way she farms. She recalled how tough her life was working on her household tasks, raising livestock and farming a three-hectare field.
As she began to use what she learned, the 60-year old mother has started to benefit from the project that aims to improve food and nutrition security through use of good agricultural practices.
“With the support of farming implements and knowledge, I am able to harvest well. During the last farming season, I got 11 bags of maize at 50kg each despite the drought. I used to plant crops using a hoe and it usually took me 2-3 months to complete my field. Now am using a ripper and spending less time in the field planting”, she said.
“This equipment has given me time to grow a variety of body-building crops such as bio-fortified maize, beans, sorghum and groundnuts,” she said with a smile on her face. Unlike in the past when her family could only have one meal a day, she can now afford three meals.
“I am able to have tea in the morning with boiled ground nuts, at lunch I eat beans and then sadza in the evening,” she said. Kerida has become the lead farmer in the area teaching other villagers on the improved farming practices such as using certified seed varieties instead of using those from the previous harvest.
She has become a shining example to other farmers who are following her methods. In Mt Darwin, farmers usually harvest 600 kg per hectare but Kerida could harvest at least two tons of maize per hectare as rains have come. Agricultural Officer Fungisai Makuzwa said it is possible for her to harvest such quantities because she adopted the practice well.
The uniqueness of the technique is that they are not labor-intensive. Farmers take less time planting crops giving them enough time to do other household chores. Agricultural Specialist Lilian Zheke said it was encouraging to see farmers adopting climate smart tools such as a ripper which she described as a climate smart farming technology.
A conservation agriculture equipment, it also ensures less soil disturbance while preserving moisture and nutrients allowing increased productivity.
Musa Jume of Mbereko Village is another farmer who is reaping the rewards from the project. Jume has been a farmer for more than forty years. In the past he used to concentrate on tobacco farming. Now, he plants nutritious crops such as bio-fortified maize, beans and groundnuts. As one approaches his demonstration plot, a thicket of a variety of crops that highlight the expertise he has acquired greets visitors.
Due to its proximity to the road that links Dotito and Bveke village Jume’s plot has become a learning site for passers-by, villagers and fellow farmers in the area. “In a day I usually get more than 100 people coming to inquire about my farming methods and ask how I did it. They appreciated the practice because they have seen how it thrived,” he said.
The Ensuring Nutrition, Transforming and Empowering Rural Farmers and Promoting Resilience in Zimbabwe (ENTERPRIZE) project is funded by the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID) through the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
The programme is implemented by a partnership led by World Vision Zimbabwe and consists of the Farmers' Association of Community Self-Help Investment Groups, Mercy Corps and the International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics. The project aims to improve the food and nutrition security of 25,500 smallholder farmers in Mount Darwin and Guruve districts in Mashonaland Central Province and is part of a larger DFID supported Livelihoods and Food Security Programme (LFSP).
On top and below: Musa Jume and wife are happy farmers with the abundance they are enjoying after following the techniques that the program has taught them.