The relationship between poverty , nutrition and food security is a complicated matrix that is indisputable. Poverty is difficult to eliminate when people are food insecure. The quality of the food also determines the level of the poverty. The challenges presented by climate change further complicate the food nutrition poverty nexus.
The fool is the one who keeps on doing the same thing expecting a different result. Faced with poor sandy , loamy soils in most of the rural areas that dominate the country it is clear that agrarian authorities in the country needed a paradigm shift in handling the shifting tides of the climate dynamics. Doing the same thing would lead to the constant peril of poverty and the inevitable begging bowl-A difficult scenario when the country faces a black out from multilateral institutions. As the old adage goes a hungry man is an angry man. Who knows what an angry hungry man can do and fathom?
It is not a secret that 60% of the Zimbabwean population dwells in the rural areas. This statistic has increased with the adverse effects of Covid-19. Most people tracked their way back to the rural areas when the going become tough in city life and truth be told the return of many shall be susceptible. The burden for food security has increased thus in rural areas.
In the haphazard land reform program the intention was to address a systematic inequality of generational proportions- however the implimentation was chaotic-the taking over of fully functional farms without a plan and purpose to the untrained land hungry populace. Corruption enveloped the process and many schemes to sustain the land reform process were misused. Backfiring through plummeting production and a reduction in the national grain reserves. It alienated Zimbabwe from the world financial troughs, crippling its bread basket status in the process making the country food insecure.
A certain assumption is made by many that is actually open for debate. The bread basket status of Zimbabwe was not fueled by the big farms -yes they contributed in producing the surplus that converged upon Africa but the small holder farmer or aptly the rural subsistence farmer was able to contribute to their own food needs and produce even surpluses that went into national reserves to augment what was coming from the farms. Had the land reform program been fairly done it is clear that those in poor sandy soils who had been farming all along should have been given first preference including the former farm workers , because they know how to work the land. However instead most of the beneficiaries sat in their swanky offices in cities thinking the land would work itself. The land does not work itself-it must be worked.
The support given to the so called new farmers did not correspond with the support given to rural subsistence farmers yet these continued to produce enough for themselves. You This gap between the rural subsistence farmers and the new farmers was not clear until the climatic shifts. The last 15 years in Zimbabwe have been a drought nightmare. The rains just have not been forthcoming and thus the subsistence farmers have thus been greatly affected and as a result are not only failing to contribute to the national reserves but have now consistently failed to feed themselves and have to rely on the generosity of government and food donor agencies.
The authorities are well aware of their responsibilities towards an important voting block and have consistently been providing small farm inputs to the rural populace. However monitoring and evaluation was always problematic. Some individuals upon receiving inputs sell their inputs to the black market immediately after receiving them. Most had stopped tilling the land. Corruption which is endemic in the country is clearly a monster even in such matters.
However one of Zimbabwes biggest agrigrian resource is its agritex extension officers popularly known as mudumeni/umulimisi. These guys have a wealth of knowledge which clearly government in the previous years was under utilizing. Coupled with new learning in climate smart agricultural technologies the Zimbabwean authorities have heard a paradigm shift in their approach to rural farming.
With the harsh knowledge of the poor soils found in most rural areas and the erratic rains the department of agriculture through its extension officers have spread far and wide teaching rural subsistence farmers the concept known as #pfumvudza #intwasa. Contrary to what most people believe this is a climate smart agricultural technology that utilises local resources and harnesses residual human strength without Mechanisation. The land has been tilled for so long, it will not produce using mechanized systems. It needs nourishment through ash , cow and goat manure mixing with lime to cure the soil and the use of old traditional methods of harnessing water. The system is done in such a way that if rains disappear as they sometimes do farmers can use very little water to sustain the crop while it waits for the rains to come.
Why is this concept smart climate technology? The previous drought just last year ravished work animals such as donkeys and cattle. Farmers thus are lacking the means of production to till the land. The soils are poor and need new management systems to replenish them. The rains erratic. The monitoring and evaluation of inputs poor : Enter #pfumvudza #intwasa.
#lntwasa #pfumvudza are indigenous words that indicate beginning of the blooming seadon a traditional sign indicating land preparation and readiness. Climate smart technologies incorporate the use of technologies that do not damage the environment and cause the soil to recuperate. Rural farmers across the country under the auspices of agritex officers have been preparing land across the country. Put in groups of 10 or as individuals preparation of the land is made by completely making sure small land pieces called plots are cleared so that there is no soil disturbance. Digging 15cm holes measuring 52m X 28m , 60cm apart ( the whole sizes and plot sizes might be different depending with areas) that will be mixed with animal manure and then planting grains suitable for each region with a strong emphasis on sorghum/rapoko/millet and sunflower both crops with an ability to withstand drought. The sides of the holes are then mulched with different mulching from sticks to grass whatever you have in order to contain the little moisture that will come with possible drought. Its a fail safe method. No matter how bad the drought the land will produce something. The farmers are then given inputs based on the report from the agritex office on actual work on the ground. Those who have prepared their land according to the instructions will get their inputs and not just everyone. This way government actually knows the number of households that have participated in the program, the anticipated food supply and the potential lack. So when the authorities parrot that they will be food secure in two years time without any need for food inputs they are basing it on work on this work on the ground. The excitement on the ground from villages is palpable.Other donor agencies have supported this program with nutritional support as digging these holes is no child play.
Those who do not understand climate smart technologies will go on and be sceptical and put political connotations to the whole program , but for the first time maybe the authorities have a winning formula. As the leaves on the jacaranda tress begin to bloom it is indeed time for #pfumvudza or #intwasa when the festivities inclined with farming must begin and indeed a new hope of a better time and season. Remember a hungry man is an angry man but when the belly is satisfied there is not much to be disgruntled about.