By Adeva Machiso Gwenzi.
The Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union, (ZFU) through support from Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) is distributing 300 Android mobile phones to Agricultural Extension officers who will be information contact persons, disseminating important information on Climate Smart Agriculture practices from the Union to the farmers.
The three hundred extension workers are from 100 wards in ten districts: Hurungwe, Makonde, Chegutu, Zvimba, Kwekwe, Shurugwi, Gokwe South, Masvingo, Chivi and Zaka.
Climate change has been one of the major hinderances to agricultural production and development in Zimbabwe, rainfall patterns have become more erratic, uncertain and unpredictable, placing a strain on smallholder production systems. Smallholder farmers have limited access to existing adaptation solutions or weather information that could help them cope with acute weather patterns and climate change information.
It is against this backdrop that the Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union has teamed up with Econet Wireless, EcoFarmer department in a CTA funded project, Scaling Up Climate Resilient Agricultural Solutions for Smallholder, cereal and livestock farmers in Zimbabwe (CRS) targeting three provinces, Midlands, Masvingo and Mashonaland West.
The project provides bundled climate-smart agriculture products and services, funeral cover, weather-based insurance, weather information, agronomic and livestock tips, promotion of drought tolerant maize varieties and livestock diversification.
ZFU works in the rural communities for agricultural production purposes and Agricultural Extension officers are strategically positioned to reach a wider coverage of farmers at ward level hence the need to equip them with mobile phones.
The mobile phones will aid Agritex officers to access information on time and also pass it on to the farmers on time.
Through the CRS project, the extension workers have access to location specific, real time weather information to through the phone, interpret it and spread it to the farmers. The Agritex officers, through the same project have received training from the meteorological department on how to interpret weather information and simplify it for the farmer.
The mobile phones will also make it possible for extension officers to access the ZFU weekly market guide quicker, thus making sure that farmers are up to date with the prevailing market prices for their produce so that they make informed decisions.
This collaboration with Agricultural Extension officers is also aimed at promoting the adoption of weather index insurance.
The Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union, with the farmers’ interest at heart, seeks strategic partnerships that enhance and improve farmer productivity and welfare.