An agricultural program from the Republic of Korea has recently hailed ICRISAT’s role in innovating and disseminating technologies and practices that improve livelihoods of smallholder farmers in Zimbabwe. During a visit to Matopos Research Center, Zimbabwe, Dr Choi Young Sup, Director, Korean Program for International Cooperation in Agricultural Technology (KOPIA), commended ICRISAT’s outstanding efforts in modernizing production and processing of small grains for the benefit of farmers in the drier parts of the country. He called for ICRISAT to partner with the Scientific and Industrial Research and Development Center (SIRDC), KOPIA’s vehicle for their R&D efforts in Zimbabwe, to develop cheaper, energy-efficient equipment that the local farmers can afford.
Dr Sup said, “KOPIA realizes the need to make cheaper threshers, blowers, and dehulling and milling machines that communal farmers can afford. Mechanized processing of small grains by smallholder farmers has huge potential in saving time, cost and labor for communal farmers. It also promotes the growing of small grains, since some farmers stopped growing small grains owing to their labor- intensive processing.”
Dr Sup also said availing cheaper dehulling and milling machines will afford communal farmers a wider choice of nutritious dishes that can be made from small grains for feeding their families and income generation from selling products such as flour, cookies and scones. He emphasized the need to design power-efficient machinery.
Dr Martin Moyo, Senior Scientist – Farming Systems, and Country Representative, Zimbabwe, ICRISAT, briefed Dr Sup during his visit to the Matopos Research Center. He described ICRISAT’s activities and how they aim to address the challenges of poverty, hunger and malnutrition in Zimbabwe. Dr Sup was accompanied by Mr Agrey Mbaya, KOPIA’s Program Manager. Dr Moyo led the delegation on a tour of the research facility.
Dr Hapson Mushoriwa, Principal Scientist and Regional Breeding Theme Lead, ICRISAT ESA, showed the delegation some of ICRISAT’s recently acquired state-of-the-art-machinery including a belt seed grader, threshers and seed blowers customized for the particular mandate crops of ICRISAT. He spoke about how the equipment had increased operational efficiency by saving time, money and labor while giving more accurate data, a key component for accelerated crop improvement.
The delegation also toured the institute’s laboratory which, among other things, does soil and plant tissue analysis as well as value addition of small grains through innovations such as prepared porridge meal, baking flour, cookies and scones. Mr Bellington Mudyawabikwa, Laboratory Scientific Officer, walked the delegation through the various dehulling and milling equipment used in the value addition processes. He also showcased some processed products including hulled sorghum and pearl millet, porridge meal from finger millet, processed baking flour and breakfast cereal from pearl millet.
KOPIA has an existing agreement with the Government of Zimbabwe, through the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development, where KOPIA funds and monitors research work by scientists at SIRDC. The research work is aimed at coming up with adaptable localized technologies and practices that help alleviate poverty and hunger in rural farming communities, a goal that is aligned to that of ICRISAT which is to eradicate poverty, hunger and malnutrition in the arid tropics. Dr Sup called for ICRISAT to work with SIRDC in applying for funding from KOPIA to develop affordable, small grain processing equipment that can be used in the rural areas.
The delegation also had an opportunity to tour the ICRISAT genebank facility where Ms Tanyaradzwa Tenesi, ICRISAT’s Genebank Technician, outlined the activities that are carried out at the genebank including collection, characterization and inventory maintenance. She went on to explained the importance of the genebank in maintaining over 7000 small grain accessions which are a valuable source of genetic variation for the small grains. Ms Tenesi also explained how the genebank plays a crucial role in shortening breeding cycles for small grains through the implementation of pre-breeding programs.
In his closing remarks, Dr Moyo thanked the KOPIA representatives for their visit to ICRISAT. He said ICRISAT would explore possible avenues to partner with SIRDC and KOPIA in developing technologies to improve the livelihoods of the poor rural farmers. Dr Sup also thanked ICRISAT for the informative tour and reiterated that his organization is willing to work with ICRISAT.
Reported by Dr Martin Moyo, Senior Scientist – Farming Systems, and Country Representative, Zimbabwe, ICRISAT.
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