MWENEZI–More than 120 farmers gathered at Neshuro Business Centre to showcase their produce and share knowledge on traditional grains at the district food and seed festival.
The festival which was held recently was organized by Mwenezi Development Training Centre (MDTC) and sponsored by Participatory Ecological Land Use Management Zimbabwe (PELUM) with support from the Government.
The theme of the event was; Celebrating the wonders of Zimbabwean Millets.
The festival is aimed at promoting organic farming, processing, and marketing of millet and other traditional grains, which are drought-resistant and nutritious.
The farmers displayed a variety of products made from millets, such as flour, bread, porridge, beer, and snacks. They also exchanged millet, sorghum, and svoboda seeds.
The best five exhibitors walked away with ox-drawn rippers in prizes, for the best appealing description of the products, uniformity, art of display, true to type and good taste of their seed and food.
The event was attended by Mwenezi District Development Coordinator, Isaac Mutambara, Mwenezi Rural District Council Chief Executive Officer Albert Chivanga, Chief Chitanga and Chief Neshuro.
Representatives from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (IMAWIC), SEEDCO and Farm and City.
The Masvingo Province Ministry of Agriculture Provincial Director, Norbet Masiwiwa, who was the guest of honour at the event applauded the farmers for their efforts and encouraged them to continue growing drought tolerant crops in Mwenezi to attain upper middle income economy by 2030 as it is a dry region which mostly favours traditional grains.
“The ceremony helps us to witness the amazing products that our farmers have produced from traditional grains in the district, such as finger millet (zviyo), sorghum (mapfunde), and pearl millet (mhunga).
“We are also going to see the processed products, such as flour, porridge, bread, beer, and snacks, and other agricultural products, such as vegetables, fruits, herbs, and spices.
“We are living in challenging times, where climate change has made rainfall erratic, droughts frequent, and dry spells severe. Mwenezi District lies in agro ecological regions 4 and 5, which is mostly affected by these conditions.
“These grains have many advantages such as withstanding drought, providing more nutrition and diversity for human health, preserving cultural heritage and social cohesion. They can create income opportunities for smallholder farmers who can sell their surplus or join contract farming schemes,” said Masiwiwa.
He added that the stakeholders need to cooperate with Government which is committed to ensuring that no one and no place is left behind in its development agenda. The NDS1 calls for the promotion of traditional grains in low rainfall areas.
“There is need to practice general hygiene when processing and marketing our products. Knowledge of our own product is also one aspect a farmer should be aware of.
“Smallholder farmers should avoid direct competition with conventional farmers since what they produce is unique in its own right. We should not just concentrate on production but should also consider sovereignty in the market,” he added.
MDTC executive director, Promise Makoni said the event was meant to create a platform where small-scale farmers could share information, knowledge, and seeds and to build farmer skills and networking in marketing their produce.
“Traditional grains such as millet are more resilient to climate change. They can provide more nutrition and diversity for human health.
“They can also create income opportunities for smallholder farmers. Therefore, by growing traditional grains in Mwenezi, we aim to achieve a zero-hunger community for Sustainable Development Goal 2 (SDG 2) and improve food security, nutrition security, environmental sustainability, and socio-economic development,” said Makoni.
Lloyd Ruvengo, a farmer from Ward 8 under Chief Maranda was happy to attend the festival and learn from other farmers considering that he had been growing millet for many years.
“Growing millet enables us to withstand the effects of climate change and drought. We can harvest something even when the rains are not good. Millet is also good for our health as the traditional grains help in fighting the non communicable diseases.
“It has more protein, iron, calcium, and fibre which helps to prevent diabetes, anaemia, and obesity,” said Ruvengo.
It was noted at the festival that small scale organic producers are still lagging behind on their produce’s quantity, quality, and consistency as a result fail to satisfy the market.
The lack of processing machinery affects the quality standards of their products as dried vegetables and small grains hupfu have small stones or soil inside (Hupfu hwemapfunde, mhunga, zviyo) as well as sub-standard labelling and branding.
MDTC is one of the implementing partners for Zimbabwe Seed Sovereignty Programme which aims at promoting local seed production and multiplication.
The organisation has also been working with PELUM, to enhance the capacity of smallholder farmers.