Farmers must be capacitated

HARARE - Zimbabwe, this coming farming season is expected to experience another drought due to the raging El Nino wave that is forecast to hit most countries in Africa.

While other regional countries have also been experiencing recurring droughts since the turn of the millennium due to changing climatic conditions, Zimbabwe has been the hardest hit due to lack of correct farming data.

Although no one can categorically claim to know all the information needs of farmers, especially in an information dependent sector like agriculture where there are new and rather complex problems facing farmers everyday, it is safe to assert that the information needs of farmers revolve around the resolution of problems such as geological location and maize type.

Local farmers also have little knowledge when it comes to pest hazards, weed control, moisture insufficiency, soil fertility, farm credit, labour shortage, soil erosion and so forth.

It must be noted that lack of new technology at the Meteorological department and obsolete machinery and inadequate human capital at other State departments such as Agricultural Extension Services have also contributed significantly to drought effects in the country.

To date, more than 1,5 million people are in need of food aid, according to the World Food Programme due to harsh weather conditions experienced during the early part of this year.

But we are quite confident that if farmers had received enough information last year, it was probable that we could have reduced the impact of the drought.

As such, we are calling upon various stakeholders — from the government to corporates and to the civic organisations — to come up with ways to train farmers and capacitate them with new techniques to beat the recurring droughts.

Zimbabwe has one of the best climatic conditions in the world and our soils are among the most arable in Africa hence we have no excuses for continuing to beg for food each year given that we have over
400 000 farmers.

One of the ways the country can be able to sufficiently feed itself is to adopt GMO drought-tolerant maize varieties, which scientists believe could go a long way toward addressing the desperate situation.

Although there are environmental concerns regarding GMOs, various researches have shown that GMOs in no way contribute to pollution.

In fact Bt crops result in a sharp reduction of insecticide use, dramatically lowering pesticide exposure.

And herbicide-tolerant crops in other countries have allowed farmers to switch to much less toxic chemicals. Overall, the science consensus is that GMO crops would be more sustainable than the crops now grown in Zimbabwe.

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