Next year 2.4 million rural Zimbabweans are projected to be food insecure during the lean season from January through March. It is likely that Zimbabwe will experience another El Niño which could result in below-average rains in the coming year. For many farmers, recurrent droughts mean poor harvests and declining incomes.
By Tatenda Macheka, WFP Zimbabwe
But for Fani Nyazvigo (age 58), it’s been a different story. Thanks to training from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), led by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in 2014, even in the face of uncertainty, Fani is feeling positive.
“I used to receive food aid before from WFP every month,” he said; “but ever since I got training and support] in 2014, I have managed to harvest more than 500 kilograms surplus.”
Small grains ‘fight’ climate change
Since 2014, the Small Grain Production and Farmer Training project a WFP project has complemented Government of Zimbabwe initiatives to improve food and nutrition security for the most vulnerable households in drought-pront districts. The project targeted 10,000 vulnerable smallholder farmers who had received food assistance from WFP, aiming to improve their resilience to future shocks and reduce future reliance on food assistance during the lean season.
Farmers were trained on best practices and good crop production methods for low-rainfall areas, such as soil and moisture conservation practices and crop variety selection, as well as post-harvest management to reduce grain losses. Each farmer received sorghum seed and cowpea seeds — small grains that are more resilient to drought — and fertilizer. Farmers also received training on farming as a business, emphasizing on market linkages and group development these small groups of farmers lead by one lead farmer who was trained by WFP to train others.
As a result of the training, Fani has found success as a farmer, growing and harvesting enough to feed his own family as well as surplus to sell. With the income he has earned in the last few years, he built a new house for his family, something he always wanted to do.
“It is every father’s dream to feed his family, and send them to school,” he said.
“The only regret that I have is I learnt that small grains are a solution to hunger later in my life. Had I started earlier, I could have been somewhere, but it is better to be late than never to start.”
Giving back to the community
Others in the community who had not participated in the official training continued ‘farming as usual,’ without much success. “Instead of learning from history, we decided to teach history a lesson and continued to plant maize,” said Spiwe Raibha. “But it didn’t work. We had to reach out to Fani to teach us what he was taught by WFP.”
Fani is now paying his success forward by training 10 other farmers every year. “I don’t want my community to have the same regret,” he said. “So I am giving back to the community by training those who are willing.”
Fani is one of many Zimbabwean smallholder farmers who have been able to harvest a surplus since receiving the small grains trainings. WFP provides a market for their surplus production, purchasing 212 metric tonnes (MT) directly from the farmers in 2017 under the Purchase for Progress (P4P) initiative with support from USAID. That surplus was routed as food assistance to other drought-affected districts. In this way, Zimbabwean farmers are not only supporting themselves, but also their fellow citizens.
This season Fani is expecting to harvest four MT and plans to sell three. He plans to buy a grinding mill so that he can add value to his produce and sell it to the nearest hospitals and schools.
In 2018, WFP plans to purchase 1,200 MT of grains locally with funding from USAID, including from smallholder farmers like Fani and Spiwe. With these sales, formerly vulnerable farmers are resilient in the face of drought, forging bright futures for their families and communities.
USAID is WFP Zimbabwe’s largest contributor, providing more than US$37 million in 2017 alone.