ZimbaSeed, a local seed variety producer said its new drought-resistant maize varieties will be available on the market before the onset of the summer cropping season at a time when the country is bracing for the El Nino weather pattern.
The varieties, to add to the already existing three, were on trials last season and will be commercially rolled out to farmers, Mr Maxwell Mataka the operations manager of ZimbaSeed said in an interview. He believes the drought-tolerant varieties will help mitigate the adverse impact of climate change-induced adverse weather conditions while ensuring better yields in light of the looming ElNino weather pattern in the next season.
“The country is expecting normal to below normal rainfall and requires varieties that are drought tolerant,” said Mr Mataka.
“As ZimbaSeed, we have two varieties, which we believe are better even with low rainfall and will be on the market this year.”
Zimbabwe is likely to experience a drought in the next season due to El Nino climate phenomena already threatening higher food prices and stoking inflation.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in July declared the start of the devastating climate phenomenon, warning its return would lead to rising global temperatures and extreme weather conditions.
The UN weather agency estimated there is a 90 percent probability of the El Niño event persisting through the second half of the year and it is expected to be “at least moderate strength.”
According to the WMO, it occurs on average every two to seven years in episodes lasting nine to 12 months.
It is a naturally occurring climate pattern linked to the warming of the ocean surface temperatures in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean and takes place in the context of a climate changed by human activities.
In Southern Africa, Zimbabwe, alongside Mozambique, and Madagascar are listed as highly exposed nations.
While Lesotho, Malawi, Zambia, and South Africa are not currently listed as countries that require “close monitoring”, that may change over the coming months, according to a Swiss-based academic and research institution, ACAPS.
Mr Mataka said drought-tolerant maize varieties have proved effective since they were introduced in Zimbabwe.
The new varieties being introduced to the market are ZMS405, an early maturing variety that takes about 130 days to mature, and ZMS623, a
medium-term maturity variety that takes about 138 to 145 days.
During the trial run, the company contracted 250 farmers who achieved average yields of four tonnes per hectare, way above one tonne normally produced by smallholder farmers, said Mr Mataka.
A poor summer cropping season may also slowdown overall economic
growth by between 0.6 percent to 1,1 percent depending on intensity, while also reducing revenue inflows and increasing expenditures, mainly towards social protection programmes.
Previous droughts had implications of increasing fiscal deficits by an average of 0.4 percent of GDP.
To mitigate the risk, the Government is scaling up the adoption of drought-tolerant crop varieties, smart agriculture, and farming practices,
investment in early warning systems, adoption of agriculture insurance, provisioning for the distribution of food to vulnerable households, provision of animal health support and rehabilitation of irrigation schemes.
Already, the Government has given the green light to private companies to import maize duty-free as a measure to ensure potential low yields as a result of drought will not lead to shortages.
ZimbaSeed is a subsidiary of the Zambia Seed Company and began as the distributor before setting up a plant.
“ZamSeed has been operational for over 60 years in Zambia, which gives them the expertise that we need to produce the seed that suits our requirements,” said Mr Mataka.
ZimbaSeed is backed by decades of research and experience across sub-Saharan Africa with varieties that bring higher yields, drought tolerance,and disease resistance to build success for farmers and agriculture nationwide that has been built by their parent company ZamSeed.