By Byron Mutingwende
Commemorating the 2014 World Food Day held under the theme, Family Farming: Feeding the world, caring for the earth at Mabvure Primary School in Zvimba district, Chris Mweembe, head of the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement in Zimbabwe said there was need for family farmers to diversify food production and adopt agro-ecological principles.
“The public must be aware that hunger and malnutrition are increasing globally. There is need for smallholder farmers to adopt sustainable agricultural technologies like irrigation and greenhouse farming as well as agro-ecological principles like conservation agriculture and crop rotation in order to increase food production and nutrition,” Mweembe said.
SUN is a unique movement founded on the principle that all people have a right to food and good nutrition. It unites people from governments, civil society, the United Nations, donors, businesses and researchers in a collective effort to improve nutrition.
The Zimbabwe Civil Society Organisations Scaling Up Nutrition Alliance (ZCSOSUNA) provides a platform for civil society organizations to contribute to the global SUN initiatives through advocacy and monitoring for accountability.
Environment Africa (EA) and Progressio are some of the ZCSOSUNA members who are implementing specific and sensitive food and nutrition security interventions that contribute to the realization of the SUN goals.
EA field officer for Zvimba district Rodrick Dick said he teaches farmers conservation techniques which include digging holes during the dry season and putting animal and compost manure before the rains fall.
“The method ensures that the soil structure is not disturbed. It is also cost-effective in that farmers will not have to worry if they don’t have enough money to buy inorganic fertilizers like Compound D and Ammonium nitrate since they will simply make manure from crop residual and cow dung,” Dick said.
He added that farmers were also taught to generate income from natural resource utilization techniques like beekeeping which had seen some people from the district exhibiting and selling their products at the recent week-long apiculture workshop held at the Rainbow Towers Hotel in Harare.
Market gardeners in Zvimba were encouraged to grow a variety of vegetables that include tomatoes, rape, carrots, onions and crops like maize and potatoes in their gardens.
“At Zvataida Cooperative Garden near Chirau Dam we grow a variety of vegetables, field crops and fruits so that our customers will improve their levels of nutrition. At the same time, the horticultural activities are a source of income to our members since we take our produce to nearby towns like Kadoma, Chegutu and Chinhoyi for sale,” said Locardia Magama, the chairperson of the cooperative.
Magama appealed to ZCSOSUNA partners and members to help local farmers with financial and material assistance in order to enable them to replace and extend the fence and buy water pumps and greenhouse materials so that they would increase their production.
Guest speaker on the event to commemorate World Food Day in Zvimba district, Patisiwe Zaba said family farming plays a great role in food production and security at a global scale.
“Family farming is inextricably linked to national and global food security. Both in developing and developed countries, family farming is the predominant form of agriculture in the food production sector. 80% of the food that we eat comes from farmers,” Zaba said.
She added that smallholder farmers utilizing farming practices that encourage biodiversity consistently have healthier soil and larger yields than those engaged in monoculture farming.
“Promoting biodiversity in crop rotation minimizes the need of synthetic inputs and fossil fuels, enriches the soil with nitrogen and organic carbon, and also mitigates erosion,” she said.
Reward Dubugwani, Agricultural and Extension Services (AGRITEX) training officer for Zvimba district said farmers should desist from monoculture, stream-bank cultivation and excessive use of inorganic pesticides and fertilizers since such practices lead to land degradation.
The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) says smallholder farmers who have diversified their crops have been most successful in increasing consumption of a diversified and nutrient-dense diet. These farmers include those who have nutrition gardens and own a number of small livestock.
It adds that those farmers with fruit trees and those who use different ways of agro-processing tend to be healthier in their communities than others. It was found that in addition to their environmental stewardship and supply of nutritious food to those in dire circumstances, small family farms are integrally linked to rural economies and as such contribute to household food, nutrition and livelihoods security.
World Food Day was established by FAO’s member countries in November 1945. Since 1981, World Food Day has adopted a different theme each year in order to highlight areas needed for action and provide a common focus. Most of these themes revolve around agriculture because investment in agriculture – together with support for education and health – will turn the food and nutrition insecurity situation around.