By Tendai Chara
Highly vulnerable farmers in Zimbabwe’s rural areas are currently frontline victims of the climate change process. This is sadly illustrated by mounting environmental degradation caused by natural devastation and climate-change-induced droughts.
To address these all too familiar challenges, Sanyati district smallholder farmers, in Mashonaland West Province, are learning how to build climate resilience into their farming activities through farming innovations. They have introduced drip irrigation technology to improve their horticultural production.
Use of drip irrigation system to grow horticulture crops is gaining momentum in Sanyati district where Feed the Future Zimbabwe-Crop Development programme introduced the technology in the district in 2019, as one of the most efficient systems to irrigate. It is 40% more efficient than gravity irrigation, and 25% more efficient than overhead irrigation.
Feed the Future is the US’s global hunger and food security initiative.
In the face of climate change, the programme is promoting drip irrigation, which is also water and labour-saving technology. Six lead farmers in Wards 10, 11 and 12 received drip irrigation kits for demonstration. The programme continued to train farmers on the technology, and to date 1, 216 (537 female; 679 male) farmers have been trained.
Lead farmers, who received the kits under the programme, also assisted in disseminating information through training other farmers. The lead farmers, selected by the project based on previous exceptional performance and proven leadership skills, teach other farmers using their own land as demonstration plots.
Having observed the good performance of the system, nine farmers procured drip kits which cover areas ranging from 0.25 hectare-0.4 hectare. Some of these farmers are Wilbert Musona (47), Adeline Chihota (48), and Loveness Juru (45). They are receiving technical assistance under the programme and Never Nganwa, one of the lead farmers who pioneered the technology in the district.
Nganwa has seen the impact of climate change. His farm is located by a nearby river, which once flowed continuously, but now flows only during summer. Nganwa used to grow irrigated tomatoes, but as rainfall and river levels became less certain his yields became increasingly unpredictable.
Now, Nganwa has developed a ‘’smart farm’’ on 0.1 hectares of land where he is using drip irrigation to grow crops.
Four farmers in Nganwa’s area have sunk boreholes and plans are at an advanced stage to install solar-powered pumps to improve the system.
Never Nganwa working in his drip irrigation plot. He also trains other farmers in drip irrigation technology.
Musona, of Machapaza Village in Ward 11, procured 15,000 seedlings of hybrid cabbage from a private company in Harare where the programme linked him. The cost of the seedlings was $264,00 and these will be planted on 0.4 hectares under drip irrigation. The farmer expects to make a gross income of $13,186.81 and profit of around $500.00 from the sale of the cabbages.
The drip irrigation system is improving resilience of farmers as they will have all-year-round productivity of horticulture crops and earn income to improve their livelihoods.
For example, Nganwa is realising income of $1, 200, 00 per year from sales of cabbages, tomatoes, carrots and onions. His previous annual income was $200,00. Farmers cite the business skills such as budgeting, record keeping, marketing, and production planning they received as a key success factor to their socio-economic development.
Climate change is already affecting many of the lives and livelihoods in Zimbabwe. It is undermining the nation’s economic development through compromised livelihood outcomes that result from gradual changes in temperature and rainfall patterns, combined with increasing frequency and intensity of natural hazards, such as floods and droughts.