Farmers in Chimanimani area have begun cultivating biofortified crops introduced under the Smallholder Irrigation Revitalisation Programme (SIRP). The programme introduced the biofortified crops in an effort to address health challenges related to the micro-nutrient deficiencies and these included Vitamin A, iron, zinc. The deficiencies were due to a lack of dietary diversity which resulted in anemia, stunted growth, impaired learning in children and maternal deaths
Joseph Muchaeereyi is a farmer in the Mandima Irrigation Scheme in Chimanimani District of Manicaland. After SIRP trained farmers on biofortification and carried out cooking demonstrations, Mr Muchaereyi decided to try the biofortified seeds in his plot. From the few lines that he cultivated in the 2021, he managed to harvest four buckets. He said his family enjoyed the sadza and other recipes from the crop such that, in the 2022-2023 season, he cultivated a larger plot.
Mr Muchaeereyi also shared his crop with other community members who enjoyed it as roasted maize. Its advantages were that it was drought resistant and yielded two equally sized cobs, compared to other white varieties that yielded only one cob. Farmers therefore harvested more from the orange maize despite cultivating a small plot.
Patience Haukozi, a lead farmer in the same irrigation scheme who had grown the NUA45 bean variety said she had discovered the previous season in that NUA 45 bean was a fast-maturing variety with higher yields compared to other varieties. After planting 3 gallons, she expected a yield of 20 buckets.
In Zimbabwe, statistics show that five million people are nutrient deficient. An estimated 72% of the country’s children and 61% of its women are iron deficient. Meanwhile, Vitamin A deficiency affects 19% of the country’s children under the age of five and 23% of its women. In 2017, Government, through the Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Health and Child Care made efforts to address the problem of micro-nutrient deficiency through the introduction of fortification of basic commodities such as sugar, wheat flour, maize-meal and cooking oil. While these fortified products are readily available in retail outlets for the urban population, the story is different for rural communities who often grow their food. As a result, fortified foods do not find their way to their tables resulting in the bulk of rural communities suffering from micro-nutrient deficiencies.
At Tabanchu Primary School, which is a beneficiary of the NORAD grant, the school had planted orange maize in its garden for supplementary feeding for the students. The school’s Deputy School head, Mr Farayi Chikanya said after receiving seed from SIRP, the school prepared the land and planted the crop with assistance from the pupils. Pupils worked in the garden during Agriculture practicals, while parents who failed to pay school fees for their children who attended lessons in the school also offered their labour during land preparation and weeding.
The school bought fertilisers using the Education with Production funding. During prolonged dry spells, the pupils watered the crop using a small irrigation system that had been set up in the school and also maintained a farm diary where they recorded the steps they took to plant, manage and harvest the maize. The school hoped to use the expected one tonne harvest as part of the supplementary feeding meals for one term. The school has also planted green vegetables which will be used as relish. The feeding programme is expected to boost the children’s participation in class as none will be hungry while also providing a platform for them to have practical lessons in agriculture