Oliver Kazunga , Senior Business Reporter
LUPANE State University (LSU) has partnered with organisations in East Africa to research and promote production of upland rice by small-holder farmers in order to enhance national and regional food security.
Upland rice is a crop that is grown in the same environmental conditions as natural maize or sorghum. World over, rice is usually grown in swamps.
Last year, LSU which specialises in agriculture, started experimental production of upland rice at its main campus in Lupane, Matabeleland North province.
The objective of their partnership is to produce rice that can be grown across all regions in Africa.
Speaking during a recent tour of the institution’s agricultural projects under its dryland initiative in Lupane, LSU projects and technical manager, Mr Boart Jamela Sibanda, who is also a lecturer in the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences said:
“We have got a number of projects that are collaborated and funded by our partners including partners in East Africa, Uganda, Sierra Leone and this is a project that is also partly funded by FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation) and the United Nations Development Programme and we are in collaboration with the research centres that are littered right across Zimbabwe.
“Where we are here is a rice plot at experiment stage and the plot has a number of varieties of upland rice.”
The objective of the partnership between LSU and its partners is to produce rice that can be grown across all regions in Africa.
In the past, Mr Sibanda said rice was grown in Zimbabwe but the production of the crop had lost lustre.
“I think some time ago, rice was grown in Zimbabwe and of late people have lost it out may be because there is no promotion of rice in the country.
“As a university that deals with agriculture and promotion of small grains, we have actually put rice as a small grain in the same basket like sorghum, millet and finger millet,” he said.
“The rice has different growing methods like as you see here this is called dibbling method and on this other portion, you can see that it’s grown in rows for it is called drilling method.”
Last year, LSU started the research project with a few rice varieties that did well and this season the institution was increasing the number of varieties obtained from the previous initiative.
Mr Sibanda said they viewed rice as a potential crop that can be promoted among the small-holder farmers.
“This is because upland rice yields even better than sorghum; it’s a very good crop and is very resilient to our Tropical climate and can also withstand high temperatures.
“However, the rice needs a lot of water to maximise production not less than 1 000 millimetres of rainfall per season and we are supplementing that with irrigation,” he said.
For its irrigation activities, the university draws water from Lake Bubi-Lupane. The university was also promoting sweet cane, finger millet, and sorghum production.
“The benefits of sorghum other than meal consumption is that we can extract juice and make sweet sorghum juice or sorghum syrup, which has got very high nutrient and yet it has got low sucrose levels that can also be processed.
“We did make some showcases last year, the farmers were very interested in sweet sorghum and sweet cane. We also have some farmers who have shown interest to have some outgrower schemes for sweet sorghum and many others,” said Mr Sibanda.
As part of their efforts to fight the adversarial effects of climate change, LSU has also embarked on researches and promoting the production of livestock and crops that are drought resistant.
Such projects were being undertaken in the poultry sector to promote the production of indigenous chickens, as well as piggery, and goat farming ventures.
It is hoped that the move by LSU would go a long way towards supporting the Government’s Agriculture Recovery Strategy, which aims to improve production within the agriculture sector and restore Zimbabwe to its erstwhile status as the bread basket of Southern Africa. – @KazungaOliver
Article Source: The Chronicle