Zimbabwe farmers shift to drought-resistant grains as climate concerns mount

Staff Writer

Zimbabwean farmers are increasingly adapting to climate change with a new report showing a 16% increase in the area planted with traditional drought-resistant grains like sorghum, pearl millet, and finger millet during the first quarter.

According to the quarterly report from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ), the significant shift comes after the government urged farmers to adopt these hardier crops in response to forecasts of adverse rainfall patterns.

Erratic rainfall patterns and recurring droughts have threatened staple maize production in recent years. Traditional grains, however, require less water and are better suited to withstand dry conditions.

“The total area under traditional grains, namely; sorghum, pearl, and finger millet increased by 16% largely due to farmers heeding advice by government to shift to the drought resistant cereals, in the face of the adverse rainfall forecast,” the central bank report reads.

Growth in agriculture activity was severely affected by the El-Nino induced poor rainfall outturn in the 2023/24 summer cropping season.

The late onset and unreliable rains during the first half of the season impacted negatively on planting activity resulting in a decline in the area planted.

The long dry spells across the country during the mid-season, caused severe moisture stress, wilting of crop and significant crop failure in most areas.

The central bank highlighted that the area under maize decreased by 12%, from the 1,962,576 hectares planted in 2022/23 season to 1,728,873 hectares in the 2023/24 season.

Communal area and A1 resettlement farmers accounted for 79% of the maize cropping area. Due to the late onset of rains, however, about 17% of the maize crop was planted in January 2024, which may have compromised maize yields.

The area under cotton declined by 19% to 145,256 hectares in the 2023/24 season, from 172,854 hectares that was planted in the 2022/23 season.

Persistent delays in payments for deliveries lowered the appeal of the crop which is also under competition from other more lucrative crops such as sesame seeds.

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