Forecast drought: Government engages experts

President Mnangagwa welcomes International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre director general Dr Martin Kropff at Munhumutapa Offices in Harare yesterday.-(Picture by Tawanda Mudimu)
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President Mnangagwa yesterday met International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) director-general Dr Martin Kropff with whom he discussed ways of enhancing agricultural productivity in the face of erratic rains expected in the 2018-19 farming season.

CIMMYT, a research and training institution head-quartered in Mexico, is renowned for its innovative technologies that boost yields even under dry conditions.

Zimbabwe faces El Nino after the 2018-19 seasonal rainfall forecast pointed to normal rains with a bias towards below normal throughout the season. Speaking after meeting the President and Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement Minister Perrance Shiri, Dr Kropff said there were many ways of minimising the effects of El Nino.

“The President did indicate that this year they expect a new El Nino,” he said.

“We have materials, drought-tolerant maize varieties that give much better yields even in drought conditions. We have also heat-tolerant maize varieties. We also have technology like conservation agriculture with which you can have much better yields. We have to work on this together with the minister and his team. You need research and also smallholder farmers need seeds and small-scale mechanisation. We do this in Asia, America and many African countries. We are glad we have a team of 70 specialists in your country,” he said.

Dr Kropff added: “We are also ready to support the country even with our wheat varieties as well and technologies. With wheat, you need irrigation. You have been the breadbasket of Africa and the President says that is going to be the future.”

He said his organisation stood by Zimbabwe when others abandoned it during hard times.

“We never reduced our presence,” said Dr Kropff. “We stayed here in Harare; we had our station, research team and we are committed here. Our Zimbabwean office is not only supporting Zimbabwe but also Zambia and other countries around.”

Minister Shiri said Government had benefited a lot from its synergies with CIMMYT.

“They have got a bank for some of the most advanced germplasm which are used in the breeding of seed for example the famous SC727 series. For it to be bred, we had to use some of their germplasm and the same applies to the Pioneer 30g19. They are also coming up with technologies to do with the breeding of drought, heat and even fall armyworm tolerant varieties of maize, something which should benefit the farmer immensely.”