Small Grains- Solution to Food Security
As a result of the El Nino induced drought the Southern African region is currently facing, the United Nations said Five million people in Zimbabwe- half of the country`s rural population will need assistance by next year.
By Best Masinire
Earlier this year president Robert Mugabe declared a state of emergence with regards to the crises.
In February, the Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa appealed to local business and charities for more than $1.5bn in aid to save more than a quarter of the population from starvation.
Zimbabwe being one of the worst affected countries has been receiving food assistance from various nongovernmental organizations around the world to ease the scourge.
FAO Special Ambassador for the international Year of Pulses Africa, Elizabeth Mpofu says small grains are the way to go in attaining food security in the country and the region as a whole.
Mupofu believes that for the country to regain its status as the bread basket of the region there is need to re-culture farmers and the people to go back to what our forefathers used to do in terms of farming.
“The background is that, the farmers where colonized to concentrate on producing maize thinking that the crop will sustain livelihoods and peasants .
“Unfortunately it was because of the interests of the colonialists who wanted to target their markets and nothing else.
“They didn’t want the peasants to grow to the extent of reaching huge markets hence tried to limit them by discouraging the farming of small grains,” she said.
Echoing Mpofu`s sentiments, a small holder farmer from Chikuku area Under Chief Mazungunye in Bikita, Mrs Moyana (44) who changed from maize to farming small grains says her decision has transformed her life financially.
“We changed from farming maize to small grains because of the climate change hard hitting the country.
“We are farming a lot of crops like rapoko millet and sorghum practicing crop rotation and taking advantage of the fact that they are drought resistant.
“As a result of that I’m able to feed and send my children to school,” she said
Mai Moyana has two children Obson (22) who is at Mutare Polytechnic and Bridget (18) who is at Rupare high school
Speaking at the Zimbabwe farmer’s dialogue meeting held at the National Botanical Gardens in Harare recently, National Coordinator for the Smallholder Organic Farmers Forum ( ZIMSOFF), Nelson Mudzingwa said agro-ecology is a farming model that if well embraced will change lives and bring about food security.
“Agro-ecology is a farming model that we believe is the modern way of farming in Zimbabwe rooted in farmers` indigenous knowledge and empowerment.
“Through seed sovereignty we envisage reclaiming the smallholder balanced nutritional food sovereignty.
“As a result we envision improved livelihoods of organized and empowered smallholder farmers in Zimbabwe practicing sustainable and viable ecological agriculture,” he said.
Speaking on the sidelines of the same program which was held under the theme ‘overcoming the dominance of maize- bringing pulses back into prominence’ Mrs Elizabeth Mpofu said going organic is the only solution to the food shortages in the country and the region.
“This day that we are celebrating today means a lot to us the small holder farmers because we are now taking consideration of the pulses especially the role they are taking in curbing the malnutrition affecting the region.
“There is no other way than to go organic or agro-ecologically because looking at the climate crises now we know that fertilizers need a lot of water.
“Going organically is the best because we are using our own seeds, most of them are drought resistant and cheaper to grow,” she said
Mpofu also called for governments in the region to be forth coming in promoting small grains in fighting the ravaging climate change.
“There is a lot of work that needs to be done to educate the farmers and consumers on the role of small grains in combating hunger.
“Pulses are short seasoned, drought resistant and very healthy. Governments should take in to cognizance these issues being raised by farmers and put laws that protect organic farming ,” she said.
Another small scale farmer, Mr Oliat Mavuramba (41) from Masvingo`s Mavuramba village under chief Chikwanda who is a member of ZIMSOFF said the misinformation of the public on small grains is affecting their market.
“Governments must invest in educating the public on the uptake of small grains and also putting legislation suitable for small grains.
“We need to come to a point whereby people fully understand the benefits of small grains.
“I believe this will improve our market and the attainment of food security in the country and the region as a whole,”
ZIMSOFF is a national farmer’s voice for the transition to agro-ecology and small holder farmer seed sovereignty.