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November 24, 2008

Zimbabwe encourages open-pollinated maize seed

The Zimbabwean government has so far distributed 261 tonnes of short-season open pollinated variety seed maize to Government institutions and farmers in low-rainfall areas to create a seed bank for next year.

The Resource Mobilisation and Utilisation logistics sub-committee chairperson, Brigadier-General Douglas Nyikayaramba, said the seed being distributed could also be used for consumption.

"We are trying to shift from depending solely on hybrid seed varieties we are importing from neighbouring countries by ensuring that we have enough seed in our stocks," he said.

Farmers and institutions in Manicaland province have received 85 tonnes of seed maize while the Midlands province got 73,3 tonnes and Mashonaland East 57 tonnes.

In Mashonaland Central province 23,5 tonnes of seed maize were distributed while 9,5 tonnes went to Mashonaland West province.

Harare, Matabeleland South and Matabeleland North provinces received two tonnes apiece with Masvingo province getting 1,25 tonnes.

"We have included institutions in the programme so that we are assured that some seed would be in stock for the following year," Nyikayaramba said.

Mr Basil Nyabadza, an advocate of small grain production, said there was need for bias towards small grains in provinces with arid and semi-arid conditions to increase agricultural productivity.

"We have over the past eight years experienced droughts but somehow we stuck to hybrid seed varieties that have actually caused a serious depletion of seed reserves for all crops.

"There has been minimum injection of funds to improve the country’s seed stocks leading to an acute shortage of grains. We actually abandoned our tradition of growing open pollinated varieties of seed leaning towards the hybrid seed maize," he said. The practice, Mr Nyabadza said, exposed Zimbabwe to a situation where it sourced hybrid maize seed every season.

"The country has had a diluted approach on small grain production yet hybrids are seasonal. In fact, we have been buying seed from countries that have stuck to OPV seed.

"Small grains have to take centre stage if we are to ensure food security in the country," he said.He, however, welcomed Government initiatives to distribute OPV seeds and small grains to farmers "as this would ensure food security and seed retention at a family level".

Four of Zimbabwe’s provinces — Matabeleland North and South, Midlands and Masvingo — are almost 80 percent arid or semi-arid, making them suitable for small grain production.

In Manicaland province, 50 percent of the land is unsuitable for hybrid maize production while in Mashonaland East, Central and West about 25 percent of the land is suitable for small grain production only.

Some of the small grains in the programme include OPV maize seed, groundnuts, round nuts, sugar beans, cowpeas, millet, sorghum, rapoko, sunflower and upland rice.

The Herald

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