BY STYLE REPORTER
The Zimbabwe Red Cross Society [ZRCS] is helping farmers in Muzarabani appreciate and embrace growing sesame in a bid to enhance livelihoods in one of the drought-prone areas in the country.
Sesame is a tropical crop, which requires hot conditions for best yield, making Muzarabani, which is classified under ecological region 5, the most suitable area to grow it.
ZRCS identified Kairezi and Chiwenga wards for the pilot project, with the hope of spreading the production of the crop across the district’s lower part.
With support of its volunteers, ZRCS plans to capacitate farmers in the district venture into commercial sesame production.
“Under the Finish Red Cross supported Muzarabani District Resilience Project, ZRCS trained 20 volunteers and lead farmers in Chiwenga and Kairezi wards to start sesame production,” said ZRCS secretary-general Elias Hwenga.
“The training included selecting suitable areas for growing sesame, soil type, PH and fertilizer requirements, planting times, procedure, seed requirements, disease and pest control including use of herbicides, harvesting and general guidelines on growing sesame.
“Farmers in the two wards have now started harvesting the crop and plans are afoot to cascade the trainings to other farmers so as to have larger hectarage planted in the coming season.”
A visit to the area last week showed enthusiasm among farmers, including ZRCS volunteers who were working on demo plots facilitated by their organisation.
They said they welcomed the training and were ready to grow the crop on large scale, come next season.
“We were trained on a number of things by Red Cross and we are now ready to use that knowledge in our own fields on a large scale,” said Innocent Chigarira from Chikara village in Kairezi Ward 23.
“We used to grow the crop, but we did not have the technical knowledge, including the type of varieties that are suitable for this area.”
Chigarira said the only challenge they were facing was that of a market.
“While we want to grow sesame on a large scale, the biggest challenge is where to sell it. Currently, buyers are coming from Mozambique and locally, the GMB has started buying sesame. However, we cannot take the crop to GMB due to logistical challenges,” she said.
Stella Wadzwanya, from Navhaya village in Chiwenga village believes sesame, if grown on a large scale, could replace cotton, which she claims is no longer lucrative.
“We are contemplating growing sesame on a large scale because cotton growing is no longer viable. We thank Red Cross for reactivating the production of the crop here in Muzarabani,” she said.
Hwenga said the society engaged the Department of Agriculture Extension Services, which facilitated the training of selected volunteers and farmers from Kairezi and Chiwenga.
Kairezi ward councillor Alderman Amon Mavedzenge said sesame production is likely to improve livelihoods in his area.
“We are happy with the technical support that our farmers from Red Cross. We hope they share the knowledge with other farmers and grow sesame extensively,” said Mavedzenge.
Hwenga said ZRCS was doing research on sesame marketing.