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Mind the Gap: Why Zimbabwean Researchers Need to Work with Farmers

09:34 EDT 7 Aug 2017 | Meridian Institute

Climate change is expected to mean even drier conditions for Zimbabwe, a country already suffering severe drought. The challenge, this article says, will be for government and research bodies to develop and promote alternative and more resilient crops in a country where most agricultural production is rain-fed. While maize is the dominant crop in Zimbabwe, drought-tolerant small grains, such as finger millet, pearl and sorghum, were once the traditional crops of farmers. Reviving them would, however, be challenging, as these grains are lower-yielding and require more labor than maize. Kizito Mazvimavi, the executive director for the International Crop Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics, which promotes these smaller grains, acknowledges that processing for the grains is limited and not readily available in many rural areas. Tariro Moyo, a maize farmer, says she is not opposed to the small grains if they make economic sense. “If they improve my livelihood and, with the necessary tools and equipment, can be the best for me, I cannot continue to put money into waste,” she said. Shepherd Siziba, the chair of the Agricultural Economics and Extension Department at the University of Zimbabwe, says not enough is being done to ensure that relevant research is reaching farmers like Moyo. “Theses are being done at universities and literature on climate change generated, but what is missing is the intensive interaction between policy, research, and farmers,” he said. Noah Kutukwa of Oxfam Zimbabwe agrees, saying the government needs to play a more active role. “Farmers continue to grow maize where it’s not working,” he said. “Though the adoption of small grains has improved, uptake has been slow… There is a need for deliberate efforts through availing small grains seed, creation of markets for the crops, and providing appropriate technology to lessen the time spent and labour needed for the production of small grains.” Adds Donald Mbangani, an agribusiness specialist at the Agriculture and Extension Services Department, if Zimbabwe really wants to build resilience to climate change, then the country needs to “strengthen the research, extension [worker], and farmer linkage.”

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