Farming/Agriculture

Cash crops a threat to food security

…the sad story of Mwenezi

  CUTHBERT MASHOKO

MWENEZI-Farmers in Mwenezi will live to regret their decision to dumb the growing of drought tolerant crops over the money spinning sesame (runinga) in the 2023-24 season as the same crop has not been spared by the El Nino induced drought which has reduced yields to almost zero across the whole country.

The venture saw many farmers during the 2022-2023 farming season in the arid district smiling all the way to the bank after cashing in huge amounts from sesame sales.

This motivated a number of farmers to allocate vast hectares of their fields to the sesame crop, leaving small pieces of land for their traditional small grain crops (sorghum and rapoko).

The rush for sesame, whose botanical name is Sesamum Indicum L, in Mwenezi was influenced by the influx of middle traders from Mozambique who were buying US$1 for a kg of the cash crop. This saw some farmers striking a fortune of as much as US $5 000.

Resettled farmers in Mwenezi have fields that span to 8hectares. Farmers in this southern part of Zimbabwe used to grow rapoko and sorghum on three quarters of their land if not more

.

This would accord them bumper harvests of the small grain crops, enough to take them for two seasons.

The advent of sesame farming had been a game changer to the socio – economic landscape of the farmers. Apart from reduced hectares allocated for small grain crops, sesame farming has seen farmers opting to buy mealie meal from retailers, doing away with homemade sorghum or rapoko mealie meal.

 With an El- Nino induced drought now a reality, the farmers have fallen on hard times as the sesame plant had not been spared by the devastating effects of the El – Nino, at the same time their rapoko and sorghum granaries are literally empty.

 It is this sad development which gives food for thought on the impact of cash crops vis-a-vis food security.

The dire drought situation has seen a 20 L bucket of sorghum which used to cost US $5 fetching as much as US$12 on the local market.

 As proof of the hard times, it is the local farmers in Mwenezi running around in needy of the now scarce yet precious sorghum and rapoko grain.

This predicament of the farmers, has its roots in poor policies which have failed to motivate the farmers. The Grain Marketing Board (GMB) buying price for small grain had not been lucrative enough, with some farmers taking long to be paid after making grain deliveries.

  More so, the RTGS currency had been subject to inflation rendering the farmers’ efforts a non event. This among other factors has influenced farmers in Mwenezi to abandon the small grain crops over sesame growing.

It is against this background that the government should work on modalities which motivate the farmers to keep their hands on the plough.

Instantly paying for grain delivered at GMB and making payments in stable currencies like the US dollar is not only motivational but allows the farmers to prepare for the next farming season.

The growing of small grain crops is a key pillar in enhancing food security especially in the work of climate change hitting the world, as such, farmers in Mwenezi need to be empowered so that they benefit and take pride in sorghum and rapoko farming.

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