BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, Oct 7 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - In
the battle for food security, Fanuel Dube is resisting his
government - and giving in to his children.
As Zimbabwe's sowing season nears, the small-scale farmer
from Filabusi, a village about 100km (63 miles) south of
Bulawayo, intends to continue planting maize.
He has refused the entreaties of government agriculture
officers to grow smaller, naturally drought-resistant grains
such as sorghum and millet. The problem, he says, is that "our
children do not like it".
"We ate sorghum when we were younger ourselves, but we have
been planting maize for so long now it's the only food our
children know," Dube explained.
Dube is not the only farmer reluctant to abandon southern
Africa's staple grain, even as harvests of it plummet.
Maize production dropped by 40 percent in Zimbabwe in
2015-16 due to poor rains, according to the Commercial Farmers
Union. The government has pushed farmers to begin growing small
grains as the future of the country's food security in a time of
But small-scale farmers have been slow in making the change,
and last year the agriculture ministry reported a shortage of
even the seeds to grow small grains, because farmers are not
planting enough to generate new stocks.
NO TASTE FOR CHANGE
According to research by Chipo Zishiri, a small-grains
specialist at the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and
Irrigation Development, Zimbabwe has witnessed a decline in the
production of small grains over the past 14 years because
farmers are unwilling to grow sorghum, millet and other
"Tastes and preferences are a contributory factor that is
derailing the production of small grain," said Zishiri.
But in a time of climate variability and increased frequency
of drought, "improving productivity of small grains is the key
to food and nutrition security," she said.
Tapuwa Gomo, a development expert at the United
Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs,
said the refusal by farmers to switch crops "demonstrates lack
of research and community consultation" by the government.
According to the agriculture ministry, up to 80 percent of
the country's maize production comes from small-scale farmers,
and poor harvests this year resulted in the country having to
import 700,000 tonnes of maize to avert hunger.
The country's primary maize seed manufacturer, Seed Co, has
invested in new drought-resistant varieties. But Stephen
Chengetai, an agriculture extension officer at the agriculture
ministry, told Thomson Reuters Foundation that one problem in
seeing them distributed is that they often "are very expensive".
"They are expensive not just for farmers themselves but more
worryingly for government which distributes farming inputs for
free," Chengetai said.
A 25kg bag of more traditional maize seed that takes four
months to mature costs around $80 while a variety that is ready
for harvest in two months costs $120 at retail outlets.
Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa has lamented the
government's lack of capacity to provide enough money to help
farmers, and banks have also been unwilling to make loans to
farmers who do not have clear title to their land, experts say.
Gift Mugano, a research associate in the department of
economics and economic history at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan
University in South Africa, said Zimbabwe needs to restructure
its seeds services unit at the agriculture ministry and improve
regulation of seeds if the country is to restore food security.
(Reporting by Marko Phiri; editing by James Baer and Laurie
Goering :; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the
charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian
news, climate change, women's rights, trafficking and property
rights. Visit news.trust.org/climate)