I was pleased to be in Zimbabwe for the start of a really important partnership that could be a significant turning point for digital technology in agriculture for the country. This led to the signing of an agreement with Econet’s CEO Douglas Mboweni, for Econet to assist in developing farming advisory messages suited to delivery over mobile handsets.
Agreement made with Econet Wireless CEO Douglas Mboweni
Econet Wireless is the largest mobile service provider in Zimbabwe with over nine million subscribers.
Mr Mboweni has recognized the opportunity for mobile phone technology to connect the fragmented group of over 100,000 small-scale sorghum and millet producers with production and marketing information. Read more
Today I toured ICRISAT’s research plots, labs, gene bank, facilities and housing in our Bulawayo office in Zimbabwe. The station is located next to the livestock research center on the accession of 28,000 acres that was once Cecil Rhodes property.
Tour of ICRISAT fields at Bulawayo with Sakile Kudita
It is really good to see the rejuvenation of our work on crop improvement and gene bank accession evaluations. Sakile Kudita has been doing a fantastic job of regenerating and testing old varieties that were developed way back in 2003. She is seeing what we want to work with going forward. I could see a lot of opportunity to modernize this process.
ICRISAT first started work in the region in 1982 and the station was developed in 1985 with significant support of USAID. The scientific team had a very large sorghum and pearl millet breeding program supported by USAID until 2003. They also worked on the development on the bana grass (a cross between pearl millet and Napier grass as a fodder crop that was very successful. Read more
With Farmer Mr Sibanda of Jambezi village
I had a fantastic day with farmers at Jambezi village in the Hwange district of Western Zimbabwe today.
Climate change is very real in Zimbabwe as the premature stoppage of rains, followed by very late rains, has wreaked havoc with the maize harvest. The country is expected to have a short fall of one million tonnes of maize, and the drought is being compared to that experienced in 1992.
We engaged with two lead farmers:
We first met with Mr and Mrs Sibanda who were experimenting with conservation agriculture with pearl millet, sorghum, groundnut and cowpea. He is a very charismatic man who works with his wife to farm around two hectares.
Mrs Kesi Nkosi, farmer producing sorghum seed for the first time
The second farmer, Mrs Kesi Nkosi, was an older lady who was producing sorghum seed for the first time. We will be buying the seed from of her to start bulking seed of an old ICRISAT variety called Macia. She was very proud of her farm and her use of weather forecasts to better manage her operations and inputs. Read more
With ICRISAT Zimbabwe staff during our planning meeting
I had a great day at Victoria Falls with ICRISAT scientists and staff today where we reviewed the country strategies and discussed how our Zimbabwe program can be adjusted to fit new priorities.
There were rich discussions with the scientists and staff on mapping their work to the value chain framework. Through that we identified the gaps in the framework with regards to systems research.
We have been doing a lot of work on innovation platforms to understand complex systems. Not just on commodities, but how those commodities might sit within a farming system, and the very integrated nature of agriculture in the drylands, especially in southern Africa.
By only focusing on crops we miss the bigger picture, which includes aspects like livestock. Small ruminants like goats are an important resource that families sell for health and education, but also to invest back to agriculture. So now our team will be going back to see how they can accommodate systems research. Read more