Agriculture Business Climate Community Development Food

World Food Day: Regenerative agriculture topical

Takudzwa Mupfurutsa

By Hillary Munedzi

Food giant Nestle has championed regenerative agriculture as the panacea to domestic food price inflation, a development that has cushioned household food security as the world commemorates World Food Day.

Zimbabwe is leading the world’s top ten countries worst affected by domestic food price inflation, all because of supply chain disruptions fuelled by the Russia-Ukraine war along with a myriad of pre-existing factors, which have affected the agriculture businesses in Africa. As the war is driving fertilizer prices up, there is a need to switch to organic fertilizers to drive down farmers’ expenses.

“The climate crisis compounds this reality, with many communities in East and Southern Africa experiencing extreme weather patterns such as severe drought and flooding. It follows that with this context, food security remains a dire concern, further compromising easy access to affordable nutrition for all,” said Takudzwa Mupfurutsa, Business Executive Officer, Dairy at Nestlé East and Southern Africa Region (ESAR).

Regenerative agriculture is growing quickly throughout the world and Zimbabwe is no different. Landowners and stewards are realizing that the wealth of their business is intimately linked to the health of their land and it is important for land and business owners to see the value of regeneration of their landscape before the alarm bells start going off.

“Regenerative agriculture, as it has come to be known, is a collective of sustainable farming practices that, by design, work in harmony with nature, while maximising output in both quantity and quality of food. The approach borrows from indigenous practices that have been used by ancient communities for centuries, and over the years, has evolved to include cutting-edge technology to finesse efficacy. The result, is better quality raw materials for food manufacturing, while significantly reducing the release of harmful greenhouse gases to the atmosphere,’’ said Mupfurusta.

Crops only take up, on average, about half of the nitrogen they get from fertilizers. Much of the applied fertilizer runs off into waterways or gets broken down by microbes in the soil, releasing the potent greenhouse gas nitrous oxide into the atmosphere. Regenerative agriculture protects the soil and is cost-effective.

Zimbabwe’s demand for fertilizer in a normal and good farming season is about 600 000 tonnes (both basal and top dressing), of which 70% goes towards Government farming programmes and African countries have a massive reliance on food imports to supplement domestic production and government must prioritize the issue of regenerative agriculture.

“A pilot project that has applied these practices is Skimmelkrans Boerdery in South Africa’s Western Cape province. The farm, which is poised to be South Africa, and possibly Africa’s first net zero dairy farm by 2023, has co-opted regenerative agriculture practices in its day-to-day activities.

“For instance, the farm uses intercropping in pastures, mixing different types of grass such as ryegrass and clover, accompanied by zero tillage, fertilized with cattle manure, and irrigated using recycled water. The impact is seismic. By repurposing manure as a natural fertilizer, the farm reduces the amount of carbon released by commercial fertilizer use. 1.36kg is the average mass of carbon released into the atmosphere for every 1kg of chemical fertilizer produced,” he said.

The Government of Zimbabwe is considering the use of organic fertilizers in its farming techniques and it has called in the private sector for input.

“We are currently testing the use of organic fertilizers and they actually work. We have called in the private sector who are into organic fertilizers to bring in samples for testing and according to our calculations, a farmer can expect to use US$4 per hectare both basal and top dressing so they are quite affordable.

“We will test the organic fertilizers for two years before we take it to Government for Pfumvudza/Intwasa but at the moment, we are testing the products from the private sector,” said Professor Obert Jiri, Chief Director of Agricultural Advisory and Rural Development Services in the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development.

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Byron Adonis Mutingwende