Research not reaching farmers in southern Africa

Farmers could be losing tonnes of crops every harvest just because no one has bothered to tell them that scientists have found more effective methods of using water to farm.

Isaiah Mharapara, chief executive officer of the Agricultural Research Council in Zimbabwe said much research has been conducted on water availability, distribution and use, but most of the findings have not been given to the farmers to use.

Cecilia Makota wearing cap and standing

Cecilia Makota wearing cap and standing

Mharapara told IPS: “There has also been some technology developed mostly for micro irrigation, and some for the conventional irrigation. There are figures and schedules that have been developed. A lot of (this) research is not being used by farmers. That is the information that needs to get to the farmers so that they can use these systems and (use) water efficiently.”

The research, Mharapara noted, goes beyond the use of surface water, and also focuses on ground water and wetlands as well.

“There has also been technology developed on the use of wetlands in crop growing. This allows the farmer to use the wetlands safely and productively. We even developed a system that would allow farmers to produce maize, rice, beans vegetables on the same wetland.”

Eight sites for wetland farming have already been identified across Zimbabwe, said Mharapara.

Cecilia Makota, a farmer in Zambia, accused policy makers of failing to respond to the needs of small-scale farmers. She said farmers had made a number of recommendations to the authorities on harnessing water from the many rivers and swamps in the country, but these had fallen on deaf ears.

“In Zambia, we have many rivers,” she said. “We also have the Kariba dam and lots of ground water and swamps. The problem is that the policy makers do not listen to the needs of women for water. As rural women farmers, we need to be capacitated on how to utilise water.”

Zambia shares the Zambezi River Basin with Zimbabwe, Botswana, Angola and Namibia. The country also has numerous other rivers which she believes are not effectively used. (IPS/GIN)

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