SMALL GRAINS AND FOOD AND NUTRITION SECURITY
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.
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:
PROMOTING SMALL GRAINS PRODUCTION IN MARONDERA DISTRICT
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:
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
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