ZIMBABWE –   Zimbabwe is shifting to traditional grains like sorghum, pearl millet and finger millet driven by their rising popularity as a nutritious food option and their high resistance to extreme weather.

Mr Leonard Munamati, Agricultural and Rural Development Advisory Services director for Mashonaland East said that traditional crops were becoming popular as people became aware of their high nutritional value.

In addition, Mr Munamati said that climate change had also impacted negatively on crop production and it was important that farmers grew crops that were suitable for their specific agroecological regions to maximise yields.

According to statistics released by the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development show that sorghum production has increased by 146 percent between 2018 and 2023 despite falling by 96 percent from 2021 to 2022.

There was also a 46 percent increase in the pearl millet for the last five years as shown by the statistics.

From the statistics, it is clear that finger millet production is on the ascend after recording a 106 percent increase in the last five years.

Mr Munamati explained that traditional grains were climate-smart and performed exceptionally well in areas where there were poor rainfall patterns.

Climate change has also seen Government and non-governmental organisations promoting the production of crops that can perform well under low rainfall conditions as part of efforts to ensure food self-sufficiency and reduce the number of people relying on humanitarian assistance.

Consumer awareness driving the shift

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union (ZCFU) president Dr Shadreck Makombe said many people were today health-conscious with some restaurants even serving traditional foods.

“Long back, demand for traditional food was low, as the food was perceived to be for the poor. Now the affluent are the ones who demand traditional food and this has increased the demand for the food on the market,” he said.

Dr Charles Dhewa, Chief Executive Officer of Knowledge Transfer Africa (KTA) added that there was an increase in the purchase of traditional grain seeds that could better withstand drought at the start of this season, as people across the country were seeking to ensure food security.

He urged farmers to value the production of traditional gains to mitigate risks and ensure higher yields.

“By conserving and utilising traditional seed varieties, farmers can adapt to changing environmental conditions while meeting the nutritional needs of the population,” said Dr Dhewa.

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