Zimbabwe?s dryland research station
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CTA. 2003. Zimbabwe?s dryland research station. Rural Radio Resource Pack 03/04. Wageningen, The Netherlands: CTA.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/57403
A crops specialist and a livestock specialist from the Matopos research station describe technologies being developed to support smallholder farmers experiencing drought
Cue: The most obvious sign of climate change in southern Africa has been the greater frequency of drought. In the past, farmers might expect to get a year of poor rainfall once every five years. Now it seems that droughts are occurring on average once every two years, and this is having a major impact both on the production of food crops and the availability of feed for livestock. In Zimbabwe, the Matopos research station is engaged in agricultural research to benefit smallholder crop and livestock farmers. The researchers understand well the challenges that the changes in climate are bringing, and have developed several technologies to try to address them. To find out more about these technologies, Sylvia Jiyane spoke to two scientists based at the station. The first was Chrispen Ndebele. IN: ?We have had problems? OUT: ?.shortages in the communal areas.? DUR?N 3?54? BACK ANNOUNCEMENT: Daniel Nkomboni describing some of the new technologies being tested at the Matopos research station in Zimbabwe to help farmers cope with climate change. Transcript Ndebele We have had problems vis-…-vis the availability of sufficient rainfall in the smallholder sector. So research has really tried to intervene to help the smallholder farmer to survive. And in this aspect we look at giving the smallholder farmer legumes which are early maturing - plus or minus 60 days to maturity; that?s one way to try to address the situation. You grow a crop that will mature in a very small space of time, even though you have got insufficient moisture, you still get something out of it. And at the same time, we have been trying to push small grains, like sorghums and pearl millets. These tend to do well even in marginal rainfall areas. And at the same time we are looking at some drought tolerant crops like sweet potatoes. We are looking at storage aspects, trying to enhance traditional storage systems, with the hope that some farmers could be irrigating, and then those who do not irrigate, but depend solely on dryland production, could buy sweet potatoes and then store them, so that that could cushion them until such time that their subsequent crop is ready for harvesting. Jiyane And your research station happens to be in the driest part of the country, which is Region 4 and part of 5. What is research also doing in as far as identifying cropping systems for smallholder farmers? Ndebele One of the aspects is looking at intercropping; intercropping small grains with legumes. To make sure that the farmer has both the cereal for his carbohydrate needs, and then the legume for the protein needs for the family. Jiyane The climatic changes do not also spare the livestock side, and with me in the programme is Mr. Daniel Nkomboni who is a higher research technician of the livestock nutrition department of Matopos research unit. He is also going to comment on these climatic changes, how they affect livestock. Nkomboni Rangelands and pastures have declined in quality and quantity due to the climate change. Matopos research station has come up with technologies which help farmers to ease the feed shortages. Forages have been improved so at to suit the local climate. Drought tolerant forages like bana grass and sweet sorghums are grown and then mixed with legumes to produce silage. The other strategy which the research station has adopted is breeding. Farmers are encouraged to conserve the indigenous livestock, because they can actually adapt to the harsh conditions which are caused by climate change. Matopos research station has actually gone into the conservation of indigenous breeds, namely the Tuli and the Nkone cattle. After conserving these breeds, the research station goes out on outreach programmes to farmers, and distributes the heifers, so that they can actually cross-breed these animals with exotic breeds which they have, so as to get the hardiness of the indigenous breeds. And then there is research which is going on on cactus, as an alternative feed for livestock. Spineless species of cactus have been identified, and this research we think is going to go along way in alleviating the food shortages in the communal areas. End of track.