Zimbabwe is a predominantly agro-based economy which explains why every farming season government is always introducing farm input programs. In the last season, we had the command agriculture and the 2020/21 farming season is being carried out under the auspices of Pfumvudza. This has been labelled a conservation farming technique meant to drive Zimbabwe towards food sustenance. Given the history of Zimbabwe`s agriculture and the numerous allegations of corruption and underperformance of such projects, one might then be wondering as to the credibility and efficacy of this new program. In this article, I attempt to take a quick look at the Pfumvudza program and what it really means for a farmer and the nation at large.
The Pfumvudza Farming Program
Pfumvudza has been defined as a climate-proofing agricultural concept which emphasises on the use of conservation farming techniques to make the most out of small pieces of land. It was developed following an enquiry as to how much land would be required to feed a family of 5 individuals when such a family consumes at least 1 bucket of shelled maize in a week. While this is so, food crop production has been declining on the backdrop of the fact that the majority of farming land is losing its fertility thus making conservative farming methods more than just a necessity.
For the program developers, a well-calculated approach to farming will not only guarantee food self-sufficiency but also ensure for environmental preservation. In this regard, the Pfumvudza concept has been fingered as a stone that could kill two birds at one throw.
The Pfumvudza Concept Break Down
To have a full appreciation of the concept I will use the example of maize production. Given that the intention is to feed a family of 5 which consumes on average 1 bucket full if shelled maize per week. To fill the 1 bucket of maize you need at least 56 maize cobs each weighing approximately 300grams. Using the assumption that each maize plant can produce such a cob this means that to fill up a single bucket would require that a farmer plant at least 56 plants.
When planting, the standard spacing for each maize plant is 60cm where each plant point should accommodate at most two plants. Based on what has been said above, to fill up 1 bucket would require at least 16m of space where 28 holes in one row will be dug and 56 plants planted. What this means is that for one to plant crops for the whole year, 52 rows of maize plants should be planted and these could take up a 39m long piece of land.
Method of Farming
Due to the conservative nature of the Pfumvudza farming concept, prospective farmers are encouraged to undergo training so that they fully grasp the important aspects of the concept. In the training phase, farmers are taught on the importance of due diligence on following the farming procedures mostly in land preparation and crop maintenance.
To cultivate maize crop to feed the family for the whole year, a farmer is encouraged to secure a 16m X 39m piece of land which should accommodate close to 1456 planting stations. Such preparations should be done as early as before late October. As soon as the first rains are about to fall it is a requirement that you apply lime and basal mix or some form of compost in your plant points. Farmers are also told of how time-saving this concept is since one only need to prepare where the plant will be placed. Therefore, Planting of crops should be done as soon as effective rains have been received.
Given the fact that the planting stations have some form of mulch on them, a plant seed will germinate within a few days. Farmers are also taught that weed control is equally critical in ensuring for the better performance of your crops and it is encouraged that thinning be done in the 2nd and 3rd week after germination. Application of top dressing is done at just about the same time you begin thinning and the second top dressing is done when crops begin to tassel and what follows afterwards is the harvesting of your fully grown crops.
Prospective Targets to Be Met
Under the Pfumvudza concept, 1.8 million households are expected to be registered and are set to receive training and government input assistance. From these households, at least three ‘small’ pieces of land should be set aside where 1.8 million tonnes of cereals and over 360 000 tonnes of oilseeds are expected to be harvested. From these, a small scale farmer should be able to harvest at least 1 tonne of maize from two pieces of land and at least 200 Kgs of oil seed from the remaining portion.
To meet these targets, the government intends to offer input assistance where farmers will receive at least 1 x 5kg of maize seed, 1 x 50kg basal dressing, 1 x 50kg top dressing, pesticide and traditional grains for both oil and cereals. Depending on one`s location such as those in the drier parts of the country, climate-smart crops such as cowpea, groundnuts and roundnuts will be provided.
Who Qualifies To Be Under The Pfumbvudza
The president is on record for having stated that the program is meant to benefit ‘everyone’ as the government strives to empower the greater majority of the population. Critiques are quick to bring out the flaws experienced during the command agriculture programs and officials say this time around the Pfumvudza is rather different. Only time will show the difference.
The command agriculture was mainly focused on persons who already had some semblance of empowerment owning farming equipment such as tractors, harvesters as well as water bodies. This time around, the Pfumvudza farming program is meant to benefit those who don’t have tractors, cattle or other such equipment.