Save a Seed & Plant Water

Zimbabwe is living a renaissance in agriculture. Majority of the almost 12 million population depends of agriculture. Since colonization Zimbabweans assumed foreigner’s solutions to increase and improve agriculture and food production. In many decades farmers lost their autonomy, they depend on seed producers, expensive chemical fertilizers, herbicides and insecticides. Zimbabwean farmers are not more tad or less hungry as they were in the last century but they are crashed. At the same time they are facing and successful solving environmental degradation. Poor Zimbabweans don’t have money to continue expensive experimentations in agriculture developed in and outside the country. Intentionally or unintentionally they step out of the roundabout of missed development. They are producing enough food as cheap as possible. The more important input is a seed. To have a seed means to have power. In Zimbabwe breeding a productive plant from a tiny seed in extremely unpleasant natural conditions is an invention.

We witnessed Zimbabweans who shifted to natural farming systems. They are utilizing locally available organic soil and enrichment materials such as cattle, goat and sheep manure, anthill soil, crop residues, compost and humus from hilltops and under trees or planting legumes to add nitrogen to the soil. They apply inter-cropping of various crops to combat the effects of drought. They are solving the problem of soil erosion planting special variety of grass (vetiver grass), introducing indigenous crops as cassava, rapoko and sorghum and developing the production of indigenous seeds.

On the opposite the agriculture industry is developing and sustaining conventional farming patterns, promoting hybrid seeds, mono-cropping, external inputs as inorganic fertilizers and numerous chemicals. Monsanto, the huge North American multinational, is entering the Zimbabwean agricultural sector at the back door. In Zimbabwe Monsanto is distributing hybrid maize varieties and chemicals, especially herbicides. With a rainy season (starts around December) the North American multinational will start with trial plots of genetically modified cotton on the governments’ land. Probation period would last for three years, sells manager Enoch Chikava said. In Zimbabwe Monsanto is focused on developing seed business in small-scale farming sector as a future market where most of cotton and maize as important cash crops are cultivated.

An article includes the stories listed below:

Monsanto selling strategy: "The service you give not the quality of seeds is the most important think when selling seeds," selling manager for small-scale sector of Monsanto Zimbabwe Charles Songore said. He showed us a direct to consumer selling approach in Murombedzi and Bango villages. He meet 36 women under the tree on the village square, talk with them offering all a soft drink. Each woman came to the appointment with Charles to buy 10 kilograms of hybrid maize seeds to plant half a hectare of land. They collected money since January, a cashier Marvelous said. Most of women were more than 50 years old. The oldest grandmother was 80. Maize as a staple food is a cash crop too and women need extra money. With Aids pandemic women become breadwinners. They need to afford school fees for children. More then half of them are looking after grandchildren, orphans due to AIDS pandemic in Zimbabwe. During exchange of money and seeds women sung and danced happily.

Farm innovators stories:

An innovation is the ability to use available resources to improve agricultural production in given natural conditions. An innovation is a development of organic farming combined with indigenous farming knowledge based on use of natural resources across the country. Firs individual farmers developed personalized innovations to improve their living on isolated parcels of unproductive ground scattered across the colony's hinterlands. In last years several local NGOs with the foreign (mostly financial) support promote the expansion of know how with practical demonstrations on the ground. Individual farmer-innovators demonstrate techniques they developed. It's upon other farmers to adapt the system appropriate to certain area. An innovation derives from the inspiration, it is not learned and it leads to small-scale subsistence farming. Every innovator is unique. The difference you notice are green vegetable gardens in the middle of sandy areas during dry season (from April to December).


The Water Harvester - Zephaniah Phiri Maseko alias Mr. Phiri

A technique is a base, practicability an everyday duty, Mr. Phiri said. Mr. Phiri at the age of 74 is known as a water harvester and he is planting water as he is planting crops. Because of his water harvesting today he is famous all over southern Africa /a book about him is published/. He dug many large pits on his land, within contour ridges, called infiltration pits, built stone sand traps, hand-dug reservoirs, stonewalled canals. He crated his own Evfrat and Tigris, he said. Over the decades thousands of people have come to visit his farm and his pond and he is sharing his lifetime experience with others thru an indigenous NGO Zvishavane Water Project. He is still working the land and producing enough food for his extended family.

Cleopas Banda (47) - farm innovator

His prime concern is to reintroduce indigenous draught resistant crops as cassava, sorghum, millet and rapoco as staple products to replace more drought-sensitive maize and the present-day staple food sadza (maize porridge). He also developed his own "no cost" dripping system on his land and he has his own seed bank where he is conservation indigenous seed... He is also distributing cassava plant to other farmers in the community. A cassava resists without water for seven years and gives food for human and for animals, Cleopas says. He constructed a reservoir with system of canals on a large sandy area where he catch the water during the rainy season and direct it to his self-made dripping system almost all year around.

Bowas Mawara (53)- Farm innovator

He went to Australia for an exchange of farming know haw in dry lands where he participated to Land care program and shared his experience with other farmers. He developed a system to collect water with a help of gravity. He dug deep pits and created a circulation of water from the upper side of his commercial farm to lower side, where the pits retain water. The canals create a connected system and make possible a circulation of water all around the land filling the fish pound all year around. In area with erratic rains he succeeded to keep the farm green all-year around. He produces enough food for the family: two wife and 15 children. Selling fruits and vegetables he afforded to pay expensive college fees for his son Munyani. He is working 12 hectares of land.

Communal gardening: Developed in the pour areas where mostly local community with the support of different NGOs started collective gardens. Each household has its own part of garden. Collective work is stimulating them to maintain garden well. Crops are usually a surplus in household economy...

In Binga district, in the northwest of Zimbabwe near the Zambezi River, are living one of the country's smaller ethnic groups - Tonga people. They live largely without interferences from the colonial rulers until 1957. The Zambezi valley was then flooded to make way for huge dam and an electricity generating station at Kariba. This is the poorest area in Zimbabwe and even the government is not doing much for this people cut from the rest of country. In last years some NGOs and World Bank gave some aid but is never enough. For example they set seven water pumps in the large area of Sinakoma Ward but now-days only two are working. The Tonga don't have the tools and the knowledge to repair them. They dug wells in the sandy ground but they dry up. The last water they catch and drink is detained in a provisory small-size dam where cattle is getting the water and cooling between two rainy seasons. And the Tonga are waiting for the food aid and for the solutions. Nevertheless Tonga people are not a broken heart people.

In the past Tonga people were used to rich alluvial soil that produced two or three crops a year. They were moved to infertile land with little water without compensation. Today they struggle to live. In the district there is no trace of infrastructure, they have primary schools but few secondary schools. The expense of school fees enables education. They have no clinic, no road, no water and no electricity. In food production first they tried crops that withstand dryness, like millet, rapoka and other small grains, but flocks of quelea birds waited for this to be ripe and ate up everything. They tried maize, but had to recon with elephants from the near national park. They survive with little they produce on the land, making baskets, picking wild fruits and brewing beer (germinating grains are used for brewing traditional beer) made only by women. For Tonga selling beer is the most used way of earning money. The District offers few job opportunities.

Abstract by Sasa Petejan