By Watmore Makokoba
In the midst of recurring droughts due to climate change, villagers in Guruve, Mashonaland Central Province, are overcoming hunger and nutritional needs through growing drought resistant small grains.
After getting basic coaching on simple but effective farming methods, hunger and malnutrition might be a thing of the past if the current harvests in the area are anything to go by.
Memory Gutura, a young woman in Matutu village, said moving away from solely relying on maize and supplementing alternatively with small grain crops, has assured her family surplus and sufficient food in instances of insufficient rains.
“By growing mixed varieties of small grains like sorghum, millet, cow peas, sunflower, beans, yellow maize, we have reaped sufficient food and we are assured of not just food security but also good nutrition,” said Gutura.
Many villagers were shunning small grains traditionally grown by previous generations. However, communities now realise that, apart from food security in times of droughts, small grains are also nutritious food sources compared to maize.
Through integrating crop production with small livestock rearing, Wellington Dirau from Ward 1 in Ruyamuro village, is realising the dividends through making stock feed from the grains.
“After getting knowledge about integrated conservation farming and getting inputs, I decided to also venture into rabbit, roadrunner (free range) chicken, and goat-keeping, which we feed with stock from the crops we produce,” said Dirau.
The communities are benefiting from a climate change mitigation and food security programme being implemented by Environment Africa (E.Africa), a regional environmental organisation with support from Bread for the World, an International Protestant church aid organisation.
During an agricultural show held recently at Guruve growth point, beneficiaries showcased their products as evidence of the success of the programme. Munyaradzi Kaundikiza , the Project Officer at Environment Africa, said the programme is being implemented in two districts Zvimba and Guruve districts.
He said this was the first phase to be followed by a solar powered irrigation scheme and the construction of a pilot biogas digester which is also a component of the irrigation scheme.
The bio-digester will provide biogas which will be used mainly for cooking by the project members and nearby homesteads. The slurry will be used as liquid manure for the irrigation scheme.
“This initiative is aimed at building resilience against climate change by helping farmers grow crops that thrive under rain constrictions. The second stage which is already underway is to facilitate solar powered borehole irrigation schemes in the two districts.
“This will see communities achieving food security and nutritional sufficiency. For a start, about 25 members will benefit from each co-operative, then the programme will scale up to other areas as each group becomes more self-sufficient,” Kaundikiza said.
Before the initiative, villagers said they used to lose livestock which they barter traded with maize due to insufficient rains.
Besides causing deadly natural disasters such as floods, climate change is one of the major contributors to acute food shortages globally.
According to the United Nations, climate change is now affecting every country on every continent. It is disrupting national economies and affecting lives, communities and countries.
However, for communities in Guruve, reverting to small grains and conservation agriculture, has opened a new chapter and hope for a sustainable future.