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February 06, 2012

Some Zimbabwean farmers find climate change coping advice differs from their own experiences

In coping with less rain, some farmers in Zimbabwe’s perennially arid southern regions are relying more on the results of traditional knowledge and their own experimentation than on the advice given to them by government extension services.

According to a Reuters Alertnet report, ‘That is producing mixed results – and considerable frustration for government agricultural experts, who believe traditional knowledge alone will not be sufficient to protect farmers against changing rainfall conditions.’

For several decades, the use of hybrid maize seed has been the norm even amongst small scale farmers in Zimbabwe, driven by well developed seed marketing and research services. In recent years farmers have been encouraged to plant more ‘short-season’ and drought-resistant maize varieties to cope with shorter, increasingly erratic rain seasons.

But one farmer interviewed said that the newer varieties have not consistently produced a good crop on her community’s land, apparently because of very poor rains. Susan Gama and other farmers do not automatically reject planting advice from government experts, but they have found it necessary to find their own locally relevant coping strategies.

As an example, “What we do is mix our planting and combine the harvested seed from the previous year and what we buy from the shops and compare outcomes," she said.

According to villagers, this mixing of seeds has helped improve the harvests. According to villagers, this mixing of seeds has helped improve the harvests.

Where Gama’s plot previously produced 50 bags of maize at 90 kg each, last season she harvested 70 bags, spurring others in this small farming community to experiment with her method.

Other farmers are resorting to more frequent crop rotation, and to greater use of mixed cropping on different parts of their land, to decrease the chances of a total failure of their crops.

more…Reuters Alertnet

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