Lecturer finds farming flair in Intwasa

The Chronicle

Thandeka Moyo-Ndlovu, Senior Health Reporter 

FOR Bulawayo Polytechnic lecturer Mr Eriah Nhongo (52), who is also a farmer, the Climate-Proofed Presidential Inputs Scheme, popularly known as Intwasa/Pfumvudza, has helped him earn extra income to cater for his family’s daily needs. 

Having tried twice to implement the conservation agriculture concept since 2019, Mr Nhongo finally got it right when he recorded a bumper harvest during the 2020/21 farming season. 

Mr Nhongo has ventured into growing traditional grains and maize at a rented plot in Rangemore. He delivered a surplus 5 tonnes of maize and 1,5 tonnes of sorghum to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB).

Through farming, he has managed to pay school fees for his children with ease, complete building his home and achieve food security, something which was only a dream for the entrepreneurship lecturer.

After undergoing training in Intwasa/Pfumvudza, Mr Nhongo received seed packs and fertiliser under the Presidential Input Scheme. 

“I developed a passion for farming at a young age and when I moved to Rangemore, I rented out a plot measuring two acres and started farming. I also got the greenlight to utilise another piece of land where there are undeveloped stands,” he said. 

At the beginning of the 2019/2020 farming season, Mr Nhongo was recommended by other farmers to the Agritex officers, marking the beginning of his successful journey. He managed to perfect the art of conservation agriculture after receiving support and extensive training from Agritex officers who have been working with farmers in Umguza District to increase the uptake of conservation agriculture.

“I was trained under Intwasa/Pfumvudza and received Presidential inputs. We were given sunflower, sorghum and maize seeds, and initially, I was hesitant to take up the sorghum seed, but surprisingly it became my springboard to my successful farming project,” he said.

“When I planted sorghum using the Intwasa model, the results were quite encouraging. During the 2020/2021 farming season, I managed to deliver 1,5 tonnes of sorghum and 5 tonnes of maize to GMB.”  

Mr Nhongo has made a great difference by emerging as a highly successful farmer who recorded a bumper harvest despite the prolonged dry spell in February that affected most farmers across the country.

When Government introduced Intwasa in March 2020, the aim was to maximise productivity per unit area, even during drought periods.

Mr Eriah Nhongo house in Rangemore, Bulawayo

Intwasa involves the utilisation of small pieces of land and applying the correct agronomic practices for higher returns. The approach can be used in areas receiving marginal rainfall and still give high yields.

According to agriculture experts, Intwasa ensures food self-sufficiency.

An average family of four to six requires a bucket of maize every week and with Intwasa they can produce food to last them a whole year on a small piece of land.

With the Intwasa concept, a farmer can also irrigate crops using a bucket and get a bumper harvest as opposed to planting maize on a large area without adequate resources and end up getting one bucket or less per hectare.

“As a lecturer I had to supplement my income and after selling my produce we managed to extend our two-bedroom house. I have a daughter who is studying at the University of Zimbabwe and I am paying her tuition fees through farming,” said Mr Nhongo.

He has since started preparing land for the summer cropping season in anticipation of another bumper harvest. The Pfumvudza/Intwasa programme is set to benefit 3,5 million farmers in communal, A1, small-scale commercial farming, old resettlement and peri-urban farmers in the production of cereals, oilseeds and legumes, including a special smaller pack for 500 000 urban farmers. 

The programme is supporting five Pfumvudza/Intwasa plots, each measuring 39m x 16m in size per household.

In low rainfall agro-ecological regions, three plots will be put under maize, sorghum and pearl millet. The maize plot is for household food and the other two plots under traditional grains are to produce for commercial sale.

In Matabeleland, a majority of farmers will receive the crop input packages for traditional grains for the 2022/23 farming season under Intwasa/Pfumvudza.

This year farmers are expected to plant two million hectares of maize. For sorghum, the Government has set a target of 380 000 hectares to produce 304 000 tonnes while 250 000ha are set to be put under pearl millet to produce 150 000 tonnes.

Farmers are expected to plant 25 000ha of finger millet to produce 13 750 tonnes of the crop.

In low rainfall agro-ecological regions, three plots will be put under maize, sorghum and pearl millet. The maize plot is for household food and the other two plots under traditional grains are to produce for commercial sale.

Government has already released $20 billion towards the programme. This year’s target means an additional 1,2 million households will benefit from the Pfumvudza/Intwasa programme, after 2,3 million households participated last year.

Under the programme, each farming household will get an input package comprising 10kg maize seed, 5kg sorghum, 2kg pearl millet, 5kg soya beans, 2kg sunflower/castor beans and 5kg of either sugar beans, cowpeas or roundnuts. Some farmers will get 5kg of summer wheat, long season variety, 2x50kg of Compound D fertiliser, 1x50kg top dressing fertiliser and chemicals for fall armyworm or stalk borer control. – @thamamoe

Article Source: The Chronicle

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