Agroecology farmers emerge from El Niño induced drought unscathed

Agroecology farmers emerge from El Niño induced drought unscathed

Barnyard Millet (Svoboda) has been increasingly gaining popularity among agroecology farmers. Lloyd Ruvengo (33) a farmer from Mwenezi district in Masvingo province says he has experimented with Svoboda and was satisfied with its performance because he managed to secure good harvests despite the unavailability of abundant water during the 2023/2024 farming season. Photo: PELUM Zimbabwe.

Small-scale farmers practising Agroecology in Mwenezi district have emerged from the El Niño marred 2023/2024 farming season unscathed.

Simbisai Machava (65) is one of the small-scale farmers working with PELUM Zimbabwe member, Mwenezi Development Training Centre (MDTC) in Mwenezi. She says despite the devastating impacts of the El Niño induced drought to most farmers all over the country, farmers like her who have been practising agroecology still managed to harvest adequate food to last until the next harvest.

“I, like other farmers who have been practising agroecology, have not suffered as much as farmers practising conventional agriculture. Farmers like me have been able to reap a better harvest from the various agroecology activities we have done,” says Simbisai.

Simbisai adds that techniques such as water harvesting, mulching and planting traditional seeds have had a positive effect on her harvests despite the unfavourable rains.

Because I adopted rainwater harvesting through digging swells and infiltration pits, I was able to salvage the little water that we received. I also preserved the little water we got by intercropping my traditional grains with live mulch which helped increase the water retention capacity of my soil,” says Simbisai.  

Lloyd Ruvengo (33) another small-scale farmer from Mwenezi says he focused on growing Barnyard Millet (Svoboda).

Svoboda is a real blessing for me. I have been testing and observing its qualities and I am satisfied with it. It’s adaptable to our dry conditions and ability to keep producing even when the rains are little. It’s a sustainable and resilient crop that helped me ensure my family’s food security,” he says.

Lloyd says the effects of El Niño on his crops have been minimal because of the resilience of svoboda.

Through my exploits with svoboda, I have found that the crop is resilient and tolerant to harsh weather conditions. I urge more farmers to utilise our traditional crops,” he says. 

Olliat Mavuramba, (50) a programme officer for PELUM Zimbabwe’s strategic partner, Zimbabwe Smallholder Organic Farmers’ Forum (ZIMSOFF) says the diversification of strategies and practices by small-scale farmers was a critical factor in ensuring the resilience of Agroecology farmers to the drought.

“Through in-depth trainings on agroecology, seed saving and food sovereignty,  agroecology farmers are continually practising and sharing knowledge and learning which is improving their capabilities to stand a better chance of surviving droughts,” says Olliat.


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