TO help local farmers curtail climate change and its negative effects on farming, Syngenta Seeds has trained horticulture farmers in Zimunya to adjust to smart agriculture initiatives.
More than 69 farmers were trained in greenhouse production, a way of farming, which according to Syngenta Seeds field promoter for Manicaland and Masvingo, Ms Thelma Zimuto, proved successful during the last farming season.
As a result, a number of greenhouses are now a common site in Tsikirire Village, Zimunya, and because of the lack of nearby water bodies, farmers have boreholes drilled at their homes to help with water to irrigate their crops in the greenhouses.
According to Mutare District Agritex officer, Mr Percy Kugarakuripi, farmers in Ward 33 have adopted the ‘farming as a business’ mantra, and accepted smart agriculture after realising that open field farming was not yielding the much desired results due to climate change’s negative effects.
“Because of climate change, seasons interchange willy-nilly, and it was becoming a big challenge to farmers to choose on what crops to grow, and on which seasons to plant them. Climate change also comes with various diseases that affect crops on open field farming, thereby disrupting horticulture production and farming.
“To ensure that our area was back on its previous horticulture production stage, we have been having these field talks on greenhouse, and open field production, while also teaching them on the advantages of using hybrid seeds,” he said.
Mr Kugarakuripi also said horticulture farming in the Zimunya-Marange area guarantees food security in the province as farmers will supply supermarkets with high quality produce.
“Our farmers are eager to improve their produce and yields. They know that through greenhouse production, one can produce 15 to 20 times more than one will produce in an open field farming set-up. They are utilising that knowledge to grow their businesses,” he said.
Mr Blessing Sithole, a horticulture farmer, said a greenhouse should be a must to every serious farmer who wants to turn their subsistence farming into business.
“Waiting to venture into farming during the twilight of your life is a wrong narrative. One should invest in farming while still in their prime years since it requires a lot of energy. Although it is expensive to set up a greenhouse, it is worth every cent as you are guaranteed of the return of your investment with each sale you make,” he said.
Mr Sithole said investing in greenhouse farming was a smart move that he made as he was now using less labour, but yielding high quality tomatoes and cucumbers all year round.
“Farming in a greenhouse is exciting especially if you enhance the experience by relying on digital gadgets like remote sensors, digital cameras, and smart tools to assist you in monitoring your project. I am still to invest in that, but that is my next step,” he said.
Another plot holder in the area, Mr John Tauzeni said because of greenhouse production, farming could be done all year round.
“Farming is not about the size of your land, but productivity. Your backyard can be a productive piece of land. On a small piece of land one can produce more when farming in a greenhouse.
“We only think that farming is for the grey-haired ones, but this is not the case,” he said.
To encourage farmers to adapt to smart agricultural practices, Syngenta has been conducting field talks with farmers in the area on greenhouse and open field production. Ms Zimuto said Syngenta Seeds was offering technical support to Zimunya farmers with the aim of improving livelihoods in communities.
“We have been encouraging farmers to take up greenhouse farming because it has so many benefits in terms of disease management compared to open field farming. Few diseases attack plants in greenhouses, and greenhouse produce are way better in terms of quality.
“They are also adopting greenhouse farming because they are realising high returns for their investments.
“We continue encouraging our farmers to continue aiming high and contribute towards the attaining of Vision 2030 goals. Farmers should embrace technology to ensure food security in every household,” she said.