The Sunday News
Judith Phiri, Sunday News Reporter
FARMERS in Matabeleland South Province have been urged to grow traditional grains such as sorghum and millet as well as sunflower and groundnuts, which are appropriate in their agro-ecological region.
Matabeleland South falls under Region 4 and 5 and receives low rainfall in most cases leading to poor performance in maize production which most farmers preferred over drought tolerant small grain crops.
Speaking to communal farmers at Ngwana and Ndiweni villages in Ward 21, Bulilima District, Matabeleland South Province on Friday, Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Minister Dr Anxious Masuka said distribution of inputs in the province was of small grains as it was a dry region, while communities could get maize through the grain swap programme.
“There are eight rural development interventions that President Mnangagwa has initiated to develop rural areas. The first programme is Pfumvudza/Intwasa and what we want is that every household and beneficiary must do three plots and then you will be given seed according to your agro-ecological region.
“So, we will not give you maize seed because we know that maize will fail and we do not want you to fail. We will give you sorghum, pearl millet, sunflower and groundnuts seed. We want you to grow the crops that will mature even if there is a drought in that particular area,” he said.
“However, if you want maize, you will grow sorghum then you will exchange with maize. We have instructed the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) to initiate the exchange programme. If you grow maize and if it fails you have nothing to exchange and you become a social welfare case.”
He called on the village heads to have farmer field schools which will equip farmers with the basic principles of agriculture so that they acquire more knowledge that will assist them produce better yields.
Minister Masuka said there were 35 000 village heads in the country and there should be 35 000 farmer field schools as well, one in each village.
“Farmers should be able to get together once or twice a week at a farmer field school where they will learn new tricks about growing crops better and those that will mature.”
He said they were now also constructing a silo at the chiefs’ homesteads as a way of assuring the villagers that even before GMB comes they will have enough to feed each other at the village level.
The Minister said the grain reserves had enough stock at GMB depots to feed the whole country, while they will continue to build the strategic grain reserves.
“This is why we want to resuscitate all irrigation schemes in the country and add new ones so that we are able to produce because the climate is changing. Other projects under Rural Development 8.0 that President Mnangagwa is bringing include the Presidential Borehole Drilling Scheme and the Presidential Communities Fisheries Programme and Presidential Blitz Tick Grease programme among others.”
He said under the Presidential Borehole Drilling Scheme they have given two drilling rigs to Matabeleland South and they were giving the province additional ones to address the water challenges that have seen livestock dying due to the delays of the rains.
Minister Masuka said the plan was to start with drier regions where at least two will be dedicated to Bulilima Rural District Council that will drill boreholes in each village until all of them have boreholes.
The intervention comes as the province is facing a critical shortage of water in communal areas as dams have dried up, with the district among the worst affected.
Dr Masuka said where boreholes would be drilled in the villages, they would be solarised and equipped with two Jojo tanks to allow for the development of one hectare gardens which would have drip irrigation so that the communities were able to earn some income from production.