By Nudge Sustainability Reporter Trish Nyarumbu
Vegetable production has been a livelihood source for many smallholder farmers in Zimbabwe especially around Mashonaland East, Mashonaland Central and Harare provinces. Leafy vegetables are mostly grown as they are an important complimentary dish to Zimbabwe’s staple food, corn. Over the years, the country has seen an influx of new and improved leafy vegetable seed, which are well marketed over our indigenous cultivars. The seed usually has very high prohibitive costs, which is beyond the reach of many farmers.
However, most local smallholder farmers have resisted change and continued to grow our local cultivars Brassica spp (Rugare and Viscourse). These cultivars have a lot of advantages over some of the elite ones. The vegetable planting materials are cheap and are easily produced from cuttings. The Brassicas respond well to organic sources of nutrients such as cattle manure and compost. Manure is incorporated in the fields during land preparation (Fig 1) which is usually done using ox drawn ploughs or hoes. Manure is important in improving both the soil structure and texture. Grass mulch is used as a water conservation technique (Fig 2). The management of the crop is not complicated for farmers to follow like for some vegetable improved varieties. The smallholder farmers usually plant small areas (Fig 3) for ease of management. The harvesting period extends to over one year with the plants growing as tall as 2m (Fig 4). The supply is almost constant throughout the year with high demand at local retail markets. It is important that we identify the strengths of local vegetable cultivars and promote their production so that we do not risk losing them thus maintaining genetic diversity.