Zimbabwe was once the Southern African Development Community (SADC) bread basket, but annual grain production diminished until the country became the biggest grain importer. Apart from the land reform program, erratic weather patterns and plant pests and diseases contributed to low yields, leading to low annual production. For instance, the effects of El Nino that occurred in the 2015/16 time period caused low rainfall that lead to a drought. According to the World Bank research team, about 4 million people needed temporary food help at the peak of the lean season before the subsequent harvest in 2017.

Many nations in Africa often face the same crop misfortune because of drought and poor farming strategies, leading to poverty, starvation, lack of economic development, rise in crime and brain drain. Food scarcity is one of the major predicament affecting many families. Prices of food commodities are on the top side, and the situation is making it hard for families to bear and get by every day. Many farmers grow crops on sizeable pieces of land, which is a burden they battle to do well. They always fail to keep their large farming lands to the highest standard and often produce poor yields.

The Pfumvudza plot concept that boosts grain farmers’ success.

There is a sustainable grain farming concept called the Pfumvudza concept developed by a white Zimbabwean farmer Clayton Christensen from Foundations for Farming, who carefully took time to study the food requirements of an average rural family, and mapped a solution to address the food requirements using minimal effort.

According to his studies, an average rural family has 6 members and consumes a 20 litre bucket of maize meal (roughly 20 kilograms) per week. To fill the bucket, it requires about 56 decent sized maize cobs. In a year, there are nearly 52 weeks, which require 52 buckets of maize meal to feed an average family of 6.

The Pfumvudza Plot concept

For an average family to have sufficient food for the entire year, the Pfumvudza plot concept requires a farmer to grow 56 maize plants in a row with 28 planting stations, each with two plants. The 56 plants will produce at least 56 decent sized maize cobs to feed the family for a week. To cater for the entire 52 weeks in a year, it will require 52 similar rows with 56 plants each. They base the concept on the top management of very little to produce excess food to feed a family for the entire year. Inputs used only cost 50USD and land required is 1/16th hectors (measuring 16 m x 39 m). One can reduce the cost if he or she uses organic manure instead of fertilizers. The principle produces between 0.8 tonnes to 1 tonne of food supply, which translates to roughly 16 tonnes per hector. The concept encourages the farmer to rotate the plot with other cash crops such as Soya beans (legumes) which keep soil nutrients because of nitrogen fixation. Please watch this video about the Pfumvudza concept.

Method to come-out with the Pfumvudza Plot

  1. Preparation of planting stations

Dig 28 holes (planting stations) in a row, with a separation distance of 60cm between successive holes. The holes should be deep enough (at least 15cm x15cm x15cm) to accommodate manure and to hold water and moisture. Repeat the same process until there are 52 rows with a separation distance of 75cm between successive rows.

2. Planting the seeds

Add a handful of manure (compost matter) or spread 5ml cup of agricultural lime across the base of the hole and then 8ml cup of basal fertilizer. Add some soil to avoid direct contact of the plants and the additives. Plant 3 seeds evenly spaced and cover with soil free of clogs and stones to ensure availability of at least 2 healthy plants germinating. Cover the planting stations with mulch to keep them moist.

3. Thinning the plants and weeding

Roughly 2 to 3 weeks after germination, thin the plot to 2 healthy plants per planting station to ensure availability of optimum plant population in the plot. Never leave the entire plot with 3 plants per planting station to avoid overcrowding of the plants, which cause low productivity. Also, do not transplant the plants from one planting station to the other or gap fill. If there are two plants per hole, leave them like that, if there are 3, remove 1, and if there is only 1, leave the adjacent planting station with 3 plants to compensate for the loss. Keep the plot weed-free throughout the process.

4. Application of top dressing and pest control

Soon after thinning, apply the first top dressing of ammonium nitrate. The application requires punching a small depression equidistant from the two plants and some 10cm away from the plants, apply size 5 cup of ammonium nitrate, and then cover the depression with soil. After 4 weeks from germination, apply a pinch of treatment for maize stock bora into the funnel of each plant. Apply the second top dressing when the plants tousle.

5. Maintaining the field until harvesting time

Continue to remove any weeds from the plot and keep the planting stations moist and free from any pests and diseases. Harvest your bumper harvest when it is due time.

6. Preparation of the Pfumvudza plot for the next planting season.

Knock down the maize stocks to form a protective blanket for the next season.

7. Use of crop rotation to keep soil nutrients

In the next season, do crop rotation with a leguminous plant or other cash crops.

For more information about the method, please view this video.

Advantages of the Pfumvudza plot Concept

  • 1. The small-sized plot allows the farmer to apply top management, which includes watering plants using simple methods if there is no rainfall, fencing, weeding, pest and disease control and application of organic manure.
  • 2. It guarantees a year’s food supply for the families and nations at large.
  • 3. The concept is not capital intensive, hence suitable for use by both low and high-income farmers.
  • 4. The concept is not limited to maize crop but can be applied to other grain crops.
  • 5. The concept has the potential to produce more than double excess grain that can be exported to generate foreign currency.
  • 6. The concept is environment friendly because intensive use of small pieces of the land reduces extensive deforestation by farmers looking to plant big plots.
  • 7. It improves efficiency in the utilization of land resource.

How governments can promote the Pfumvudza plot concept for economic development

  1. Increase awareness by educating the citizens on the potential benefits of intensive farming/ the Pfumvudza plot concept. The Zimbabwe government took significant measures this year to increase awareness to the general citizenry through mass media and campaigns by the Agricultural Extension Officers.
  2. Invest in construction of inland dams and drilling of boreholes to ensure availability of water for watering the Pfumvudza plots.

Edited and published by Tapiwa Masikati-Mudzamba

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