When Benedict Muzenda and his neighbours were children, they finished their school exams in October so they could come home to spend the summers weeding the fields, ready for harvest in January. Now the rains still haven’t come by the time school’s over, the fields are bare and the harvest is getting later and later. The annual drought in this part of southern Zimbabwe has left farmers looking for new ways to produce food and finding the best solutions in the tried and tested methods of the past.
The farmers at the Muonde Trust in the Mazvihwa region are part of a growing movement of African farmers who are reviving their indigenous seeds as they offer far greater resilience in the face of climate change. Crops like sorghum, bulrush millet (that populated these valleys long before maize was introduced) are better suited to withstand long periods without water.
These small grains are also adapted to local soil conditions making it easier for them to grow in the dry valleys of Zimbabwe. As the local elders will tell you, these are the grains blessed by the “mwaris” and “the spirits of the land” and able to feed the local community far better than the hybrid industrial seeds that have dominated the African landscape for the last 30–40 years.