Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Farming Reporter
A small grains programme by Caritas Zimbabwe in Umzingwane District, Matabeleland South Province has been described as a success towards enhancing household food security in the drought prone area.
The Catholic Relief Organisation distributed small grains to 1 546 households in five wards in October last year under the Zimbabwe El Nino Relief South Project as part of its efforts to enhance availability of food for families and their livestock.
Those that benefited under the programme received macia sorghum, velvet beans, lablab beans and cow peas.
Speaking at a field day at one of the successful farmers, Mr Alson Mbuyazwe Dube’s crop and livestock demonstration site in Mawabeni last week, Umzingwane District’s Department of Agricultural and Technical Extension Services (Agritex) extension officer Mrs Mathobela Sibanda said it was important for farmers in Matabeleland South to embrace the cropping of small grains as they tend to suit the area’s climatic conditions.
“We are located in natural region four and most of the times, crops that usually yield better are small grains, this is largely because they have many roots which enable them to retain moisture for long periods and their leaves are also small thus meaning such plants don’t lose much water. As such we are encouraging people to crop small grains in the event of poor rains,” said Mrs Sibanda.
Small grains (sorghum, pearl and finger millet) are ranked second as staple cereal crop after maize in Zimbabwe.
They play a vital role in food and nutrition security.
Their drought tolerant nature make them able to thrive better in marginal areas.
The marginal areas of Zimbabwe (Natural Regions III, IV and V) are characterised by high temperatures (above normal), limited and uneven distributed rainfall.
“Most farmers don’t like cropping small grains because it is laborious as one has to contend with repelling birds. However, Caritas distributed macia sorghum which is only susceptible to birds at soft dosage. Cow peas can do well in less than 200 to 500 millilitres of rain and people can consume both its seeds and leaves.
“It has also been proven that small grains contain a lot of nutrients that’s why health practitioners have been pushing for their consumption and they can also be used as feed for chickens while lablab is special feed for livestock thus Caritas has not only assisted in ensuring improved food at households but also for animals since they are involved in a small stock project as well,” said Mrs Sibanda.
Caritas Zimbabwe director Archbishop Alex Thomas said the organisation was satisfied that the objectives of the programme had been met.
“We are quite satisfied about the outcome of this project. Our objective was to ensure food security in this area, which is drought prone, through provision of the right seeds and training and let people do the rest on their own after we had provided the inputs and the other requisite necessities. We also have a small stock programme because these have a fast production rate and ensure quick returns to the beneficiaries,” he said.
Mr Dube said the acre that he put under Caritas’ small grains programme would play a big part in enhancing his household food security and nutrition.
The 77-year-old pensioner is also expecting a bumper maize harvest from his two hectares and has already cropped a hectare of maize which he irrigates using the drip irrigation system and intends to sell the produce as green corn to other members of the community.
The enterprising farmer is also into horticultural production.