The Sunday Mail
IN a rare spectacle, villagers in Mazonde, about six kilometres from Mubaira Growth Point in Mhondoro, Mashonaland West province, watched in awe as a cavalcade of branded and mostly all-terrain vehicles made a beeline to one of the local farmer’s homestead.
The convoy was made up of representatives of seed and fertiliser companies, farmers, agronomists and agro-dealers.
Highly specialised professionals such as seed technologists, geneticists, germplasm conservation specialists, biotechnologists and molecular biologists were among the people present.
What occasioned the “invasion” of this usually sleepy hamlet was a demonstration event on the “Pfumvudza” concept, which is a climate-proofed farming method.
The event, which focused on the use of quality seed, good agricultural practices and the correct application of lime, was organised by the Zimbabwe Plant Breeders Association (ZPBA) in conjunction with the Mexico-headquartered International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT).
Of note, the event, which came as the 2020-2021 summer cropping season draws nearer, was an endorsement and a show of confidence and support for Pfumvudza — introduced by Government under the Agriculture Recovery Plan — by various stakeholders in the agricultural sector.
The Agriculture Recovery Plan seeks to improve food production and ensure food security.
Over 800 000 farmers countrywide have reportedly adopted the conservation farming technique and have since prepared for the forthcoming cropping season.
Pfumvudza involves the use of small pieces of land and the application of correct agronomic practices for higher returns.
This concept will be applied to maize, traditional grains and soya beans.
Dr John Basera, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement, who was the guest of honour at the event, gave a synopsis of the Pfumvudza concept.
He challenged plant breeding professionals to come up with new climate-smart seed varieties.
“Government will soon declare cassava as a strategic crop since it can be used as both human and animal feed. It is sad to say that 98 percent of the wheat that we consume is imported.
‘‘I am challenging you as professionals to come up with cassava and wheat varieties that are best suited for our environment,” Dr Basera said.
Plant breeders, he added, must work on developing summer wheat varieties and hybridisation of traditional grains.
“As professionals in plant breeding, there is need for you to develop wheat varieties that perform well in summer.
‘‘Research on hybrid traditional grains must be taken seriously. We would want to expand Pfumvudza to incorporate wheat and even cassava,” he said.
Dr Cosmos Magorokosho, a senior maize breeder and the president of the Zimbabwe Plant Breeders Association (ZPBA), confirmed the clearly evident support of the concept by technologists in the plant breeding sector.
“As ZPBA, we are fully in support of the Pfumvudza concept which is being rolled out nationwide. As witnessed here, this demonstration event highlighted the important strides that are being made in mitigating the effects of climate change through the promotion of drought-resilient maize varieties and adoption of appropriate climate-smart technologies that are anchored in the Pfumvudza concept,” Dr Magorokosho said.
“As we speak, we are in the process of engaging a West African agricultural research station with a view of getting cassava varieties that best suit our environment.
‘‘As for the summer wheat varieties, I am sure the Crop Breeding Institute is working on wheat varieties,” he said.
It is believed that lack of funding is slowing the development of new varieties.
ZPBA is an association that represents the interests of professionals that work in the plant-breeding and other plant-breeding related fields such as seed agronomists, seed inspectors and molecular biologists, among others.
Dean Muungani, another maize breeder, advised stakeholders in the agriculture sector to fully support Pfumvudza.
“As we have seen here today, for this concept to succeed, there is need for seed companies, seed technologists and other stakeholders to come together and support this very noble concept. As explained by the Agritex officers, this concept results in food self-sufficiency,” he said.
Basing on the support by stakeholders in the agricultural sector, it is clearly evident that Pfumvudza, which is targeting two million households, has so far received overwhelming endorsement.
With weather forecasts predicting normal to above-normal rainfall this season, the Pfumvudza might considerably help eliminate food insecurity.