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In line with the recently launched Agriculture and Food Systems Transformation Strategy, the Ministry of Agriculture, Lands, Water, Climate, and Rural Resettlement in collaboration with the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) is promoting low cost, yield-enhancing, and environmental friendly climate-smart agriculture technologies that increase production and productivity in the semi-arid regions of the country.
The initiative is part of the Zimbabwe Agriculture Knowledge and Innovation services (ZAKIS) project which falls under the EU-funded Zimbabwe Agricultural Growth Program (ZAGP).
In a recent interview, ZAKIS head of project Mr Waddilove Sansole said, “One of our key objectives is to facilitate relevant, farmer-centric and market-oriented research that informs agricultural extension and education, and climate-smart agriculture provides the solutions to the agricultural production and productivity challenges faced by farmers in low rainfall regions of the country. As we go into the next cropping season, we would like to encourage farmers to aim for better yields by embracing climate-smart agriculture.”
Under the initiative, ICRISAT is working with farmers as well as counterparts from the Department of Research and Specialist Services (DR&SS), Esigodini Agricultural College, and Agritex to promote climate-smart agriculture with a particular focus on small grains such as sorghum, pearl millet, and finger millet in Matobo and Insiza districts.
Commenting on the initiative, ICRISAT Zimbabwe country representative Dr Martin Moyo said, “The decision to promote these crops was informed by a farmer needs assessment survey and it was also a response to the variable and poor rainfall pattern in the target districts.
“In order to effectively disseminate research findings and allow practical farmer-oriented learning, we set up on-farm pearl millet and sorghum demonstrations in Insiza and Matobo districts and at the Matopos Agriculture Centre of Excellence during the last growing season.”
Dr Moyo said that ICRISAT has been working on improving sorghum and pearl millet varieties, and new varieties that are better adapted to the semi-arid areas and more resilient to drought are now available in Zimbabwe.
“The project is therefore working with the private sector to ensure that farmers are aware and have access to these new sorghum and pearl millet varieties,” he said.
To complement this effort and to improve food and nutritional security in a sustainable manner, ICRISAT has also been promoting other climate-smart agriculture practices that include integrated soil fertility management, soil moisture conservation, and irrigation efficient technologies, use of climate information to manage risk, and crop-livestock integration, as well as on-farm fodder production.
The research organisation works extensively across the world implementing development projects that are designed to transform dryland agriculture systems. Under ZAKIS, it is also working on other initiatives that include the capacity building of extension, education, and research staff.
Dr Moyo added: “We are working closely with counterparts at the DR&SS institutes to build the capacity of personnel to ensure that they are equipped with the right skills to provide priority services for improved crop and livestock production. As a result, we have increased the exposure, participation, and motivation among the young researchers within DR&SS.
“Also, the ZAKIS project has made a significant contribution to infrastructure development at the Matopos Agriculture Centre of Excellence by equipping the centre’s nutrition laboratory and buying artificial insemination equipment to improve livestock breeding techniques.”
ZAKIS seeks to improve farmers’ livelihoods by enhancing the dissemination of agricultural knowledge and stimulating innovation through strengthening the working links among agricultural research, education, and extension services in Zimbabwe.