- Farmers in southern Zimbabwe are shifting back to growing traditional small grains and maize after experiencing food shortages from the failure of their hybrid maize crops, which haven’t adapted well to the region’s dry soils and climate.
In Bikita district, a group of 220 farmers have brought back several small grians like the traditional svoboda and a tuber called tsenza that grows in wetlands.
Farmers find themselves at a crossroad between seeds as hybrid maize seeds are costly and further degrade dry soils with their accompanying fertilizers, while cultivating small grains is labor-intensive and doesn’t produce much foliage for animal feed and crop manure.
Agronomists say the government should further support farmers in growing small grains to improve soil and dietary health.
BIKITA, Zimbabwe — Nothing seems to happen at the right time for Maria Mazambara, a communal subsistence farmer in Bikita, one of Zimbabwe’s southernmost rural districts.
“The seed we get from government’s input scheme is usually delivered to us late in the season,” she says. “And when we do receive it, the rains are too little to sustain my maize crops and it wilts at the [final] tasseling stage. Sometimes the rains are just too much and we have floods. It’s always a case of so near, yet so far.”
This has left Mazambara and her family, in a dry region that receives low annual rainfall, as candidates for food aid.
“Representatives of humanitarian agencies that give us food handouts now know me by name,” she says in a worried tone.