Preparing small scale farmers to withstand climate shocks
DAPP Zimbabwe is contributing to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal of zero hunger through training rural small scale farmers in Gutu and Mutasa districts of Zimbabwe to adapt and mitigate climate change impact.
Imagine the beginning of the agricultural season, the farmers have prepared and planted after the first rains. But the rains fail to continue or are not sufficient. We are seeing this more often as the climate gets warmer resulting in less food being produced. Farmers are usually left with limited options. However, DAPP Zimbabwe Farmers Clubs programme is at the forefront in offering farmers viable solutions to reduce the climate change induced shocks.
DAPP Zimbabwe, in partnership with United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), work together with small scale farming communities of Gutu and Mutasa districts in Zimbabwe. Through a 2 year Farmers’ Clubs programme which enrolled a total of 2 000 farmers running under the theme “Sustainable Lifestyles and Education Programme”, farmers are trained on how they can stay resilient.
So, what have small scale farmers been taught to reduce crop losses under difficult weather conditions?
Supporting with natural soil fertility to withstand dry spells
Soil that has a mixture of animal and plant matter and a lot of life is good in storing water and nutrients thus allowing maximum growth of crops and plants. Farmers were taught ways to build up soils such as covering the soil with mulching, crop rotation, adding compost manure, minimal soil disturbance as well as planting fast maturing crop varieties. Farmers enrolled in the Farmers’ Clubs programme received training on water conservation and are encouraged to shift from conventional tilling, burning crop residue and cutting down trees.
Commenting on the benefits from the program to date, farmer Ackson Manjowe in Mutasa said “mulching iri kuti batsira kuchengetedza hunyoro mumakomba atinodyara zvinoita kuti mbeu dzedu dzive ne utano hwakanaka uye musanganiswa wemashizha nemanyowa watinoshandisa unopa chikafu kuzvirimwa” (mulching helps to keep plant moisture while the leaves and manure mixture provides the right nutrients for the plants).
Feeding the soil thus helps farmers build rich soils and ultimately reduce the impact of dry spells.
Adopting home grown solutions
As climate change continues to threaten food security farmers in our programme have adopted home grown solutions to mitigate the effects of some of these shocks. The farmers are encouraged to switch to small grains such as rapoko, root crops like cassava as well as early planting fast maturing varieties that guarantee food security in short rainy seasons.
They are also encouraged and helped to set up nutrition gardens to produce vegetables that thrive under low cost irrigation. A total of 100 rope-and-washer pumps are currently being installed in Mutasa and 7 bush pumps in Gutu to irrigate the gardens and to provide safe water for drinking.
Planting trees for a more stable environment
Trees are vital for our environment as they reduce soil erosion and maintain the water cycle that brings us rain. They provide shade and food for our animals as well as wood. They are thus worth conserving and replacing. Our farmers, in their groups, mobilize each other to construct firewood saving stoves and rocket stoves so as to reduce wood consumption. They plant live fences to reduce the cutting down of indigenous trees for poles. All open spaces are utilized to make sure that we meet our target of planting 200 000 eucalyptus for woodlots, 40 000 fodder trees, 40 000 fruit trees and 100 live fences. One of the trees that farmers are planting is Leucaena that can be used for livestock feed as well as providing green manure.
Sticking together to overcome challenges
The DAPP Zimbabwe Farmers’ Clubs approach encourages farmers to not only stick together but to also share knowledge and join hands in production and marketing. A club usually has 50 farmers who are divided into 5 groups of 10 called core groups who share information and train together. They work and learn in a common garden and a demo-field and go on to practice in their individual fields. During seed fairs they share crops that grow well under difficult conditions and learn from farmers around them.
Women farmers take the lead in the clubs
Women are at the frontline of food production but are often sidelined and do not have a say over the produce. To counter this, the Farmers’ Clubs, benefiting Gutu and Mutasa districts, have 60% women and 40% men. The women are thus fully involved and equipped with skills that enable them to produce more and to transform their farming activities into a business.
Through the adoption of the above strategies DAPP Zimbabwe’s aim is to produce food even when the climate becomes warmer and the seasons end up being shorter.