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Growing Zimbabwean Resilience: The Strength of Traditional Food Crops

by Ronit Ridberg

New evidence shows traditional food crops can help Zimbabwe improve resilience to climate change and economic turbulence.

A recent study [pdf] by researchers from Cornell and Rhodes universities and the Sebakwe Black Rhino Conservation Trust found that traditional food crops, such as mubovora (pumpkin) and ipwa (sweet reed), are an important source of community resilience in Zimbabwe-including resilience to climate change and economic turbulence.

Unlike traditional crops, the majority of commercial crops that have been introduced to the region "are not adapted to local conditions and require high inputs of agrochemical inputs such as fertilizers, mechanization, and water supply," according to the study. These crops tend to be more vulnerable to climatic changes, such as the drought and subsequent flooding that occurred in Zimbabwe's Sebakwe area in 2007-08.

To avoid some of these challenges, many communities and farmers turned-and returned-to growing traditional and indigenous crops. By incorporating indigenous vegetables and increasing crop diversity, farmers improved their diets and increased agricultural resilience to pest, diseases, and changes in weather. Planting different varieties of maize and millet also enabled farmers to match specific crops to their own microclimates.

Additional benefits of growing more diverse crops include seed saving and the processing of traditional foods. With dried and other preserved traditional foods, communities have a more secure and reliable food source during the off-seasons. And seed saving and sharing enable communities to remain independent from commercial agricultural companies, helping to ensure future food security.


Photo courtesy Bernard Pollack. Photo caption: Seed saving and sharing enable communities to remain independent from commercial agricultural companies, helping to ensure future food security.

This article originally appeared on the Worldwatch Institute.

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Comments

you can't mention Zimbabwe and the drought without mentioning the 2010 Bucky Fuller Institute Winner, Operation Hope. Their success in turning around 6500 acres of near desert into lush grasslands is an important example of Zimbabwean Resilience. see www.holisticmanagement.org for more details.


Posted by: Phil Jonat on 20 Jun 10

Local knowledge on traditional food crops and related agricultural practices was proven to be a source of local community resilience, enabling residents to sustain their livelihoods. Log home kits


Posted by: neilstohr on 1 Jul 10

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