Zimbabwe: From seeds to markets, maize alternatives face challenges

HARARE – After years of bad maize harvests as a result of worsening drought, farmer Dorothy Chihota switched a few seasons back to growing sorghum, millet, cowpeas and groundnuts on her 50-acre farm in Uzumba Maramba Pfungwe district.

Since then she has had only good harvests, she said � but that doesn’t always mean she has had good years as a farmer.

Small grains are giving us better yields but our problem is that there are no markets to sell our produce, she complained in an interview with the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Prices for the grains are poor, and seeds are not available in shops.

Faced with failing maize harvests as climate change brings more droughts and other severe weather, Zimbabwe’s government and a range of aid agencies have urged farmers to diversify the country’s agriculture and plant more drought-hardy alternatives to maize, the staple crop.

But the systems to support farming such alternative grains � from the creation and marketing of seeds to finding markets for what is grown � have not kept up, farmers say.

Figures from Seed Services, a Zimbabwean institute focused on improving agricultural production, show that in 2016-2017 only 460 hectares of certified sorghum seed were likely to be grown in the country, compared to 400,000 hectares of certified maize seed.

Source: Angola Press News Agency