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Commamd Agriculture

19 600 Farmers Receive Command Agric Inputs


More than 19 600 farmers have so far received adequate inputs from Government’s specialised import substitution maize (Command Agriculture), the Zanu-PF Politburo heard yesterday.




By Chipo Zishiri (Small grains Specialist)


 Small grains (sorghum, pearl and finger millet) are ranked second as staple cereal crop after maize in Zimbabwe. They play vital role in food and nutrition security. Their drought tolerant nature make them able to thrive better in areas marginal areas for thus being an answer to grain security  in this current environment of climate change and variability. The marginal areas of Zimbabwe (Natural Regions III, IV and V) are characterized by high temperatures (above normal), limited and uneven distributed   rainfall.

Finger millet in particular has long storage life. Seldom do insects and moulds attack it. The long storage life makes it an important crop in risk-avoidance strategy in food security. Growing small grains one of the possible potential successful approaches for improving household food security.

Small grain has numerous uses in food and nutrition security. Firstly, they can be prepared into thick porridge (sadza) taken together with relish or as thin porridge and beverages. Small grains are used for brewing beer for traditional ceremonies. Furthermore, the popular beer known as ‘chibuku’ is prepared from sorghum.


Contribution of small grains to nutrition

Small grains are a rich source of carbohydrates. Sorghum and pearl millet are rich in vitamins and minerals especially potassium, calcium and phosphorus. The minerals are important for heath bones and teeth while finger millet is rich in iron an important component of hemoglobin in red blood cells. Iron is an important requirement for children under five years, pregnant women and the chronically ill patients. 

Why go for small grains?

Diversification to small grains production has been encouraged at household level for increasing yields. Growing small grains suitable in marginalized areas is one of the possible potential successful approaches for improving household food security. A number of reasons exist why households should go for small grains.

  • Small grains are tropically adapted C4 plants with high water use efficiency due to their morphological characteristics that reduce water transpiration for growth and yield of the crop.
  • The characteristic of early maturity fit in the current Zimbabwe climate. Prioritizing small grains in their cropping programs can lead households to be grain secure. In the event that maize has failed, small grains can remain as a stable grain reserve.
  • Small grains are best choices in low potential parts of the country that normally experience drought every year.
  • Small grains are drought tolerant. Pearl millet can withstand hot dry conditions and grown on soils of low water holding capacity where other crops fail. It is ranked most drought tolerant after sorghum and finger millet.

Reasons for limited production in Zimbabwe

Despite the advantages of growing small grains in Zimbabwe, production of small grains is declining each year. Below are some contributory factors for limited productions:

  • Small grains are low yielding compared to maize. Except for sorghum, there has been little attention in terms of breeding and genetic improvement.
  • Bird damage is one of the main challenges small grains production faces especially for white seeded types. As for the red types of sorghum, bird damage is deterred by certain off-tastes.
  • Another deterring activity for the small grains production is the pre-consumption processing. Despite the few dehullers distributed across the provinces, majority of population that grows small grains still rely on the traditional method of pestle and mortar. The process is laborious and a deter to the production of small grains.
  • Tastes and preferences is also a contributory factor that is derailing the production of small grain. Maize is more preferred than small grains sadza. The colour of the sadza produced from the small grains is not appealing to the eyes as most of the population is used to the pure white sadza.
  • Marketing opportunities are limited for small grains. They are limited formal marketing opportunities for the three crops, although a lot of publishing has been done.
Production of small grains is also affected by poor prioritization of resources. Most farmers do not allocate inputs to small grains. Some grow small grains in their waste part of arable land and others do not prioritize time of planting. This really has a negative effect on their production.



By Chipo Zishiri (Small grains Specialist)


 Finger millet (Elusine coracana L) isalso known as zviyo, njere or rukweza. Finger millet is one of the most nutritious among other small grains like sorghum and pearl millet. The grain is rich in methionine, an amono acid lacking in diets of many who rely on cassava and plantains as their carbohydrates. The grain tastes better than other small grains. Finger millet grows well in a wide range of climatic conditions, from low to high rainfall areas thus suitable for production across the agro-ecological regions of Zimbabwe.  Finger millet in particular has long storage life. The grain is tolerant to weevil damage probably due small seed size. The long storage life makes it an important crop in risk-avoidance strategy in food security.


Uses of Finger Millet

Finger millet can be prepared into thick porridge (sadza) taken together with relish or as thin porridge very good for chronically ill patients, children under five years and pregnant women. It can also be used for non-alcoholic beverages and for brewing beer for traditional ceremonies.


Finger millet Demonstrations in Chihota Area

Finger millet demonstrations were established this current season in Marondera district, Pfani village of Chihota communal area. A total of ten demonstration plots were established by ten Households comprising of seven women and three men. Each famer planted 0.2ha of finger millet at various plant spacings and using different planting methods. After harvesting, farmers are expected to reach out at least three households by sharing seed. In 2014/2015 season the whole village will be able to produce finger millet. The village will be a finger millet lead village in terms of production and value-addition in the district, province and country at large

 The objectives are:

  • To promote finger millet productions through best agronomic practices implemented by demonstrations, trainings and looks and learn visits.
  • To improve seed access to other farmers through community seed fairs in the next season.
  • To demonstrate finger millet value-addition

Production Constrains

Farmers cited the following constrains in finger millet production: lack of liming, use of retained seeds, high labour requirements at critical operations such as weeding, harvesting and post-harvesting processes (threshing, winnowing and processecing)


Support by Department of Department of Agricultural, Technical and Extension Services

  1. 1.    Input Support

The Department of Agricultural, Technical and Extension Services assisted the farmers with inputs for the demonstration plots. Input package for the ten demos consisted of

  • 20kgs seed of variety FMV-1.
  • 2000kgs lime (2t)
  • 500kgs basal fertilizer ( Compound D)
  • 300kgs top dressing ( Ammonium Nitrate)


  1. 2.    Technical Support
  • Trainings conducted to date include:
    • Soil sampling and soil sampling results interpretation
    • Reasons for using lime, types of  lime and methods of  application
    • Land preparation
    • Advantages of using improved varieties (FMV-1)
    • Fertilizer management
    • Planting methods
    • Farmer record keeping
    • Gross margin budget for finger millet

 Contact details: