Enneta Kudumba is one of the many farmers in Mutasa district, Manicaland Province who have successfully employed new farming technologies and methods to enhance their harvests given the detrimental effects of climate change.
54 year old Enneta from Nyachibva Village explains.
“I have been growing maize on large pieces of land for years, but with limited satisfaction due to erratic rainfall patterns. However, I am happy that the zai pit technology has brought fortunes and my productivity has improved.”
Zimbabwe, like most Southern African countries, has experienced the worst ever El Nino induced drought that left a number of farmers in Mutasa and other parts of the country counting their losses after a poor harvest.
Located at the heart of the high veld region, Mutasa District has variable agroecological zones with maize farmers at the other end of the area experiencing rainfall shortages. This has affected the agro-based livelihoods both socially and economically. The area also boasts small to large dams that are utilised by the farmers for their horticultural activities.
The Zimbabwe Livelihoods and Food Security Programme (LFSP) introduced zai pit technology in a bid to arrest the problem of hunger in areas experiencing massive crop failure.
“Zai pit technology, introduced by the Zimbabwe Livelihoods and Food Security Programme, changed my life,” said Kudumba. “I am very happy with the results. This year, for instance, I managed to harvest a tonne of maize. Prior I would till acres of land and harvest less than a tonne of maize”
Kudumba said she dug 400 pits, with one pit accommodating six maize plants and managed to grew 2,700 plants on her one acre piece of land.
What is a zai pit?
Zai pits are infield conservation works which are being adopted as a climate smart way of farming in view of the threat of climate change induced drought. The zai pit is prepared well in advance starting in July soon after harvesting. The zai pit measure 60 cm x 60 cm by 30 cm deep. You can plant six to eight plants in the pit. You need to apply 5 litres of well decomposed manure and a cup of compound D in August-September to give the soil adequate time to react with the manure. When the effective rains come in November and December you then plant and maintains the plots. You can use the principle of mulching in Zai pits and herbicide usage is encouraged.
Despite the practice being labour intensive, it has proved to be an effective weapon against hunger. Zai Pit technology is one of the most popular ways of conservation farming that keeps moisture in the soil for a longer period and also helps prevent soil erosion.