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CIMMYT develops multiple stress tolerant maize varieties

Speaking at the 2024 CIMMYT annual partner’s day in Harare recently, Agriculture ministry permanent secretary Obert Jiri said the organisation was playing a key role in developing the agricultural sector.

GOVERNMENT has hailed the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) and its partners for developing multiple stress tolerant maize varieties that withstand drought and fall armyworm.

Speaking at the 2024 CIMMYT annual partner’s day in Harare recently, Agriculture ministry permanent secretary Obert Jiri said the organisation was playing a key role in developing the agricultural sector.

“In today’s world of modern agriculture, research continues to play an important role in developing new varieties and related technologies of various food crops to cope with the ever-changing environment and dietary needs,” Jiri said.

“CIMMYT, together with its partners, has been developing multiple stress tolerant maize varieties including drought tolerant and fall armyworm tolerant hybrids as well as provitamin A-enriched maize hybrids.”

The organisation has also promoted sustainable and climate-smart technologies, such as conservation agriculture, a key component of the successful “Pfumvudza or Intwasa” programme in Zimbabwe.

“I am also informed that over the years, appropriate-scale mechanisation has become a significant focus for CIMMYT to promote sustainable agriculture while increasing agricultural productivity,” Jiri said.

“Most noticeably, the organisation has helped to establish village-based mechanisation service providers in some districts of Masvingo, Mashonaland Central and Mashonaland West, offering essential services ranging from planting, ripping, shelling, threshing to transportation services to hundreds of smallholder farmers.”

He said collaborative endeavours made by CIMMYT, the International Livestock Research Institute, the University of Zimbabwe, and Department of Agriculture, Research, Innovation and Developmenthave  accelerated  livestock feed production by smallholder farmers in several districts in the drier parts of the country.

These efforts include the implementation of inter-cropping trials with leguminous fodder crops, aimed at diversifying agricultural practices and strengthening local food systems through agro-ecological approaches.

This year has been marked by challenges, notably the devastating El Niño, which is having adverse effects on crops nationwide.

Zimbabwe, like many other nations, continues to grapple with the harsh realities of climate change, characterised by erratic rainfall patterns, prolonged droughts and extreme weather events.

“In response, the government of Zimbabwe remains steadfast in its commitment to safeguarding our farmers through strategic partnerships, cutting-edge research and advocacy. It is in this spirit of resilience that we welcome CIMMYT's expanded focus on dryland crops, including small grains and legumes, which is a critical step in addressing the evolving and pressing needs of our agricultural sector,” Jiri said.

He indicated that the government has been consistently and continuously enhancing its efforts by strategically implementing various agricultural support programmes, yielding tangible results in increased production, productivity and ensuring food security for the nation.

Jiri said the Presidential Input Scheme, which supported vulnerable groups of farmers under the conservation agriculture Pfumvudza or Intwasa programme, has seen more than two million smallholder farmers implementing conservation agriculture in their fields in the current season including both rural and urban farmers.

Areas under maize increased by 3% to 1,96 million hectares in 2022/23, while the total area under Pfumvudza (maize and sorghum) was estimated at 260 892ha in the current season.

Government has also invested in the development of the livestock and horticultural sectors, Jiri noted. The national dairy herd, for example, increased by 11% between 2021 and 2022.

CIMMYT country representative Mainassara Zaman-Allah said El Nino called for all stakeholders to work together and empower communities by providing solutions to farmers.

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