The United Nations World Food Programme has identified Zimbabwe as one of the best countries to engage in the implementation of traditional grains production, as part of its strategic focus towards promoting food security and nutrition.
Over five million people in Zimbabwe face severe hunger following a harsh drought that hit the entire sub-continent in the 2018-19 cropping season.
Climate-related disasters have been driving food insecurity in the drought-prone areas of the country, and farmers need to change their attitude towards traditional grains to enhance their coping mechanism.
The objective of the WFP traditional grain project in the country was meant to ensure household food and nutrition security for small holder farmers in marginal areas such as Mwenezi, Buhera, Binga, through capacity building and increased production.
In an interview, WFP country director and representative Mr Eddie Rowe said traditional crops such as pearl millet, cowpeas and sorghum are tolerant to low moisture and drought conditions which are currently being experienced in the country.
He said this year, WFP assisted more than 29 000 smallholder farmers nationwide in traditional grain production.
“We are complementing the Government’s initiative of small traditional) grains and in fact this year WFP, Food and Agriculture Organisation and the Ministry of Agriculture embarked on a pilot small traditional) grains programme in region four and five, urging farmers to produce them,” said Mr Rowe.
“We (WFP) have supported 29 000 smallholder farmers to cultivate small traditional) grains crops such as sorghum and cowpeas and fortunately some of them received their inputs sometimes around mid-January so they got enough time for them to start production.”
Mr Rowe said priority was on food and nutrition.
“We are also looking at resilience of smallholder farmers, especially in enhancing capacity to be able to generate evidence that will influence policies in relation to health and in relation to food and security,” he said.
“Climate-related disasters are driving food insecurity in the drought-prone areas of the country and farmers need to change their attitudes towards small (traditional) grains to enhance their coping mechanism.
“Our changing climate demands that we put the resilience of families and communities at the heart of our efforts to reach zero hunger.”
Mr Rowe said the promotion of traditional grain crops was in line with the Sustainable Development Goals number 2 and 17.
“We are focusing on SDG 2, but most of our work activities also touch on the other SDGs,” he said.