“PFUMVUDZA”, A GAME CHANGER IN THE HOUSEHOLD FOOD SELF-SUFFICIENCY PLAYING FIELD

Pfumvudza” is a Shona word that describes the re-birth of the vegetation after a cold winter and windy autumn. The word has been adopted and figuratively used to describe a climate proofed farming concept that ensures attainment of t food and nutrition security at household level. It has been more than a decade since Zimbabwe has attained a bountiful harvest (enough to get us back to the bread basket status)  as a result of consecutive years of drought, lack of farming inputs, equipment and farming knowledge coupled with traditional farmers’ practise of extensive farming ( cultivating bigger areas with little inputs). The  inevitable “climate change”  is an assurance that the nation has not seen the end to drought years, dwindling capacity of water sources and increasing temperatures that are not conducive for the existing farming systems. It is an undeniable fact that it can no longer be business as usual in our day to day farming. This has led to the government, civil society partners and the private sector to promote of the “Pfumvudza” Farming concept as the new way of doing farming business, The concept is based on the practise of Conservation agriculture (CA), which is a combination of three key principles i.e.

  • minimum soil disturbance (zero tillage, basins, ripper lines or permanent planting stations),
  • rotations/ crop interactions (Intercropping, strip cropping, relay cropping or the usual rotation)
  • soil cover (live mulch (a standing crop in existence with the major crop), dead mulch in the form of dead leaves, crop stover and grass).

CA is a climate smart agriculture practise and ensures environmental sustainability as there is less disturbance of the soil. The soil is continuously covered and hence is nourished and moisture is conserved.

“Pfumvudza” is focused on a small food security plot which when cultivated is expected to give the farmer and his family enough grain to last them a whole consumption year. The dimensions of the plot are as follows:

  • 1/16 ha ( 39m*16m)
  • 1456 holes per plot
  • 52 rows with 28 holes per row
  • Each planting station/ hole will have 2 plants
  • Spacing 60cm * 75cm

The 52 rows are symbolic of the number of weeks in a year and if done to the expected standard, a household is able to harvest one 20l tin (appr. 18kg) of maize grain from each of the rows which is enough to feed a family of six for a whole week. The enhancement of this concept from the normal CA is probably in the size of the plot. The “Pfumvudza” plot is easily manageable due to its size and allows the farmer to work in time (i.e. preparing planting stations, soil conditioning and mulching) as well as planting. The plot allows all operations to be done to a high standard with precision (rows are straight, Fertilizer, compost and lime are placed precisely and there is optimum weed management). In the end the farmer is left with the joy of seeing a healthy and thriving crop and eventually obtaining a bumper harvest.

The government has given the smallholder farmer under the “Presidential Input Support”, a challenge to undertake three “Pfumvudza” plots on which two will be grown to a cereal crop (maize,  sorghum or pearl millet) and one will have an oil seed or legume crop ( sunflower, soyabeans, sesame, groundnuts, sugarbeans, cowpeas) depending on agro-ecological region. Having two cereal plots ensures that the farmer is food-self-sufficient for the whole year but can also have surplus to sell and add to the strategic grain reserve. Soya beans and sunflower in the package is meant to reduce importation of cooking oil while Sesame will be promoted for export and hence increasing the foreign currency earnings. On the other hand groundnuts, sugarbeans and cowpeas are to ensure a balance in household nutrition status and may also be promoted for commercialization.

The Government “Pfumvudza” concept enables the farmer to kill many birds with one stone which are

  • Climate proofing agriculture through moisture conservation by mulching.
  • Environmental benefits as a result of minimum soil disturbance resulting in less erosion and nutrient retention. Crop rotations and interactions ensure soil conservation, reduced pest infestations as well as nutrition security for the farmers.
  • Nutritional benefits – the Government “Pfumvudza” input pack includes cereals, oilseeds and legume crops.
  • Commercialization of the smallholder farming sector- the three plots ensure that a farmer gets enough cereal for own consumption as well as surplus for sale

By: Fungai F,  Gamu and Rutendo Nhongonhema (AGRITEX)

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