The Sunday News
Sukulwenkosi Dube-Matutu, Gwanda Correspondent
FARMERS have been urged to practice agro-forestry in order to ensure food security and nutrition and as a way of practising environment friendly farming methods.
In a speech read on her behalf at a tree planting event held at Progressive Garden in Bethel Village, Ward 14 in Gwanda last week by an administration officer in the District Development Co-ordinator’s Mr Judge Dube, DDC Ms Kiliboni Ndou, said agro-forestry could ensure that farmers harvested even during a drought.
“As we plant trees in this garden, we are moving with the Government policy of promoting agro-forestry. Agro-forestry is key to sustaining food security and nutrition.
“It generally involves mixing of crops, trees and or livestock taking advantage of their symbiotic and abiotic interactions. Planting trees together with crops greatly increases the yield in the field. Research has shown that after agro-forestry farmers in drought situations still get up to 80 percent what they get in a normal season.
“This is possible through increase of soil organic matter, soil infiltration and greater fertility. Agro-forestry also improves soil fertility.
“Food security and nutrition remains one of the main thrusts of the Government and is a key deliverable that will ensure the attainment of an upper middle-income economy status by 2030,” she said.
Ms Ndou said the rate of deforestation in Matabeleland South Province was at 5 000 hectares a year while in Gwanda it was more than 933 hectares per year which was alarming.
She said main drivers of deforestation included agriculture expansion, firewood cutting and mining. She urged community members to fight effects of deforestation through intensive tree planting and conservation.
Ms Ndou highlighted on the importance of trees and forests in environmental management and mitigating the effects of climate change.
In an interview, Hand in Hand Zimbabwe Director of programmes, Mr Emmanuel Makiwa said the organisation had launched the Green Enterprise project in Gwanda which was set to cascade to other districts.
He said under the project they were urging farmers to conduct their business in an environmentally friendly manner. He said they had established five agro-forestry gardens in Gwanda where farmers were growing a mixture of crops, plants and trees.
“As an organisation we have a four-step model which involves social mobilisation, business training, access to finance and marketing. We have launched the Green Enterprise pilot project in Gwanda where we have established five agro-forestry gardens and we are here today to witness works at Progressive Garden in Ward 14.
“We worked together with other technical partners in this project to see the establishment of this solar powered 0,8 acre garden.
“We assisted farmers through training and then assisted them in establishing the garden by providing a fence and the equipment for the solar system. We are still in the process of installing more taps and putting up a pipe system to draw water. As an organisation we want to see communities self-sustainable and food secure,” he said
He said they had also worked with Forestry Commission to establish bee-keeping projects, tree seedling nurseries, processing of Marula and Baobab products (jam) and other environment conservation projects in Gwanda.
Mr Makiwa said their organisation had various projects in six other districts.
Speaking during the same event, Forestry Commission Matabeleland South provincial manager, Mr Bekezela Tshuma said his organisation was in the process of scaling up projects to ensure preservation of trees and forests.
He said as a province they were targeting to plant about 20 000 trees this tree planting season. He said the rate of deforestation in the country was 300 000 hectares a year.
Mr Tshuma said this year’s tree planting season was being held under the theme “Fruit trees for food security and nutrition” while this year’s tree is Garcinia buchananii also known as Granite garcinia in English and Mutunduru in Shona.