Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

***The views expressed in the articles published on this website DO NOT necessarily express the views of the Commercial Farmers' Union.***

Climate Change Affects Informal Agric Markets

Climate Change Affects Informal Agric Markets

4 Dec 2014

mbare musikaIN an increasingly changing climate, smallholder farmers are switching their attention from rainfall to moisture management. 65 percent of the volume of agriculture commodities flowing into Mbare Musika and other agriculture markets in Zimbabwe are produced in sand and sand-loam soils. Clay soils contribute 30 percent of the agricultural produce while five percent consists of various imported produce.

We are not sure under what soil conditions these foreign commodities are produced. According to farmers, the ability to use the minimum rainfall and enable crops to germinate quickly are some of the reasons why sand and sand-loam soils account for better production than other soils under a changing climate. It’s much easier for fertilizer and organic matter to be available to plants when there is less moisture in sand soils than clay soils which require significant amounts of rainfall.

With climate change making rainfall distribution patterns unpredictable, water harvesting and meticulous management and use of moisture and groundwater is now a fundamental skill. Zephaniah Phiri in Zvishavane district and hundreds of farmers who have embraced conservation agriculture around Zimbabwe are already making a difference in converting the little available moisture to household food and surplus for the market. Farmers’ capacity to translate water into sustained food production is now more important than general information on how to produce any crop.

Traditionally, Zimbabwe receives rains in October and November depending on regions. However, all this is changing with some areas yet to receive effective rains by early December. Since rainfall distribution affects crop maturity, researchers and seed companies have to run if they are to catch up with farmers’ sense-making skills because currently these formal institutions are well behind.

Farmers who bought long season varieties on the basis of information projecting early start of rainfall activity should be re-funded or given appropriate seed in line with the delayed rainfall. While policy makers start urging farmers to plant small grains upon sensing a drought, there is no organised seed system for small grains with farmers relying on their own community arrangements and obtaining some of the seed from the informal market.

On the other hand, Zimbabweans, particularly those living in urban areas, have rapidly embraced a western diet whose components do not include small grains and other local foods.  While Zimbabwe’s above normal rainfall is said to have increased maize production from 785 000 metric tonnes to 1,4 million metric tonnes in the 2013/14 summer cropping season, less is known about other foods.

Damage caused by floods, hailstorms, high temperatures and other indicators of a changing climate has to be assessed and expressed in ways that make sense to farmers, ordinary people and the market. The supply of onions on the market also reflects soils and moisture usage by farmers in various areas of Zimbabwe. – Knowledge Trust Africa

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