AGRICULTURE remains the basis of the Zimbabwean economy. If we get agriculture right, then we are on the right track to get everything else right: food security and surplus, industrialisation, exports growth, job creation, value creation, growth of the rural economy and growth of the overall economy. The sector contributes significantly to the National Gross Domestic Product, exports, raw material supply base to the manufacturing industry, employment and livelihoods, so it is clear that we need to fundamentally get it right.
The World Bank toolkit on the Health of Agriculture comprise of 8 tools or touch points and according to a 2017 World Bank report, Zimbabwe still needs to improve on 7 of the 8 touch points as illustrated in the dashboard below:
Source: World Bank Presentation onVision 2030 for Zimbabwe’s Agri-Food System
But, we can still put some important add-ons, such as knowledge through sound agricultural Extension, Communication and Farmer Education, which is a key enabler in improving crop productivity.
Technology adoption, innovation and modernisation are critical tools in the Agriculture development toolkit. These tools help in improving; output/time, output/investment, output/input, output/labour and output/cultivated area. Improving efficiencies, productivity and profitability ensure sustainability and competitiveness of the agriculture value chain. Surely, for us to be able to sustainably feed our growing population (growing at the rate of 2.4 % p.a) and supply our industry with raw materials, yields must grow, Productivity, Productivity, Productivity! Technology and innovation adoption optimise Agriculture productivity.
Further, the trio (technology, innovation and modernisation), is an important ingredient in our efforts to commercialise farming in Zimbabwe, which is still largely subsistence and semi subsistence and to transform it to semi-commercial and commercial. We have over 1.2 million smallholder farmers in Zimbabwe, if we can successfully turn these to smallholder farming businesses? The implications will be positively significant in terms of rural employment, value creation, rural economy, competitiveness, rural livelihoods, agriculture value chain upgrading and overall the national economy. Over 67 % of our population live in the rural areas, and as such we cannot talk of inclusive economic growth, without the inclusion of this demography. We need to promote adoption of appropriate technologies and innovations among farmers in order to upgrade our Agriculture Value Chain.
Technologies with potential impact on Cropping Systems in Zimbabwe
Crop protection technologies
Generally, failure to control weeds during the first five weeks of a crop cycle leads to a 50% yield reduction. A painful example in maize is, failure to control Shamva grass throughout the growing season, can result 57-80% yield loss. The correct use of herbicide technologies (pre-emergence and post-emergence) can help keep fields weed free. Fall Armyworm pest is proving to be a menacing pest, and a real threat to farmer productivity and food security in Africa, but the use of registered pesticides technologies can help avert yield losses from this and other pests. The same applies for fungal diseases and fungicide technologies in crop production systems. Annually, 25 to 30 % of yield is lost due to poor Post Harvest Handling (PHH) of agricultural produce. PHH technologies including metal silos, grain protectants, grain bags, refrigerated trucks/containers, modern granaries and fumigants etc., must be promoted to avert PHLs.
Appropriate mechanisation optimise efficiencies, productivity and production, which in turn and ultimately increases agricultural value chain competitiveness. Tillage implements, planting units, spraying equipment, detasseling machines, harvesting equipment and drying equipment are good examples of mechanisation which need to be embraced and promoted in our farming systems.
Soil and Crop Sensors
A number of farmers in Zimbabwe are beginning to use device sensors to monitor conditions such as soil moisture, pH, nutrient status and soil temperature. These devices regularly provide farmers with valuable information about the condition of their soil and crops. This helps them make essential operational choices to maximize crop yield.
In modern cropping systems, the use of sustainable information and communication technology is not an option, but actually a necessity. Drones are remote controlled aircraft with no human pilot on-board. These have a huge potential in cropping systems in supporting evidence-based planning and in spatial field data collection.