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Irrigation, conservation agriculture and crop yield response in selected districts in Zimbabwe

Conservation Agriculture - Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe's low-potential zones can be identified with a soaring prevalence of scarcity, shortage, deficiency and lack; depressed rural proceeds, earnings and revenues; low farm yields; and food unavailability (Nyagumbo et al., 2009). These factors combine to collectively contribute to cause complications, frustrations, hitches and snags to efforts to earn a decent living, income, occupation and employment in the rural areas. Studies conducted in higher-rainfall zones of Zimbabwe have found that appropriate use of agricultural technologies tend to enhance and develop rural incomes, employment and revenues. Unfortunately, not enough has been recognized about the effects of farm skills, knowledge, expertise, machinery, tools and equipment on crop output, efficiency, yield and production, and food availability in the semi-arid, low-rainfall and parched segments of land situated in between the higher rainfall districts of Zimbabwe. Differences in the quality of the agro-ecological and climatic resource base between wetter and drier areas within the northern and north-western districts are thought to result in variations in yield response of crops between semi-arid and high-potential zones. Yield response in the latter zones has already been investigated by numerous studies; however, there is a paucity of related studies in the semi-arid zones that occur in irregular pockets within the high potential zones.


In the southern and central parts of the country, low-potential, low-rainfall zones occur, not as little sporadic semi-arid pockets of terrain slotted in and inserted amidst high potential, high rainfall regions, but as extensive expanses of continuously dry areas. In these zones, quite a number of scientific investigations on farming skills and productivity-enhancing techniques, and the effects of agricultural technology utilization on crop yields and food availability, have been implemented in the Masvingo, Midlands, Matabeleland North and South Provinces (Mazvimavi and Twomlow, 2008; Snapp et al., 1997; Nyagumbo et al., 2009). Similar research in the semi-arid areas of northern and western Zimbabwe has been piece-meal and scanty. The aim of this research was to separate and examine the effects of farming technologies on crop yields and food availability among communal area households in a semi-arid ward (Natural Region IV) of Makonde District in northern–western Zimbabwe.

Conservation agriculture

Conservation agriculture is characterized like other cultivation practices that lessen or decrease the deficit or deficiency of soil fertility and soil moisture, and diminishes soil erosion. In the semi-arid areas of Zimbabwe and the neighbouring countries, the fundamental and essential constituent elements of conservation agriculture being encouraged and supported by Non-Governmental Organizations amongst communal farmers are the removal of grass, herbs, wild plants and weeds from the fields during winter, hollowing out and breaking up earth to create little soil sinks or bowls for sowing seeds and plant establishment, spreading of crop remains over the soil surface, placing and positioning animal dung, compost and artificial inorganic or organic soil fertility amendments in the excavated little bowls in the ground, opportune and appropriate removal of weeds, and regularly changing the type of crops planted on a particular field from season to season (Twomlow et al., 2008). The intension of encouraging and supporting conservation agriculture in the semi-arid areas of the southern African region is to sustain crop production by preserving, protecting and safeguarding frail, weak, infertile and erodible soils, and lengthening episodes in which soil moisture, dampness and humidity are accessible and reachable by the planted crops.

Irrigation

The major objective of encouraging and supporting the adoption of irrigation technology was to raise and enhance crop productivity. An independent samples t-test was performed to contrast maize crop yields obtained by smallholders carrying out irrigation with farmers not applying water to their crops. The statistical output pointed towards a significant difference between the two groups of farmers, and in favour of farmers implementing irrigation. Test results for adopters of irrigation exhibited a mean maize yield of 3.10 tonnes per hectare, with a standard deviation from the mean of 0.9 tonnes. Mean maize yield for non-adopters of irrigation technology was
much lower, at 0.70 tonnes per hectare and a standard deviation of 0.2 tonnes.

Conclusion

Findings from the study show that greater agricultural productivity can be achieved through the use of conservation agriculture and irrigation technologies among communal farmers in semi-arid Ward 11 of Makonde District in Zimbabwe. Nevertheless, a very small percentage of farmers use these technologies, leading to the prevailing hunger, low food consumption, and food insecurity. Irrigation development and conservation agriculture are among the recommended measures to increase yields in the fight against hunger and food insecurity.

Article by Washington Muzari has been extracted from Journal of Innovative Research and Development. April 2017, Vol6, Issue 4. www.ijird.com