Converting arid Mthwakazi into arable farmland

Growing our own food and increasing food security is just as essential as the need for political independence yet we seem not only least concerned about it but recklessly least prepared to address the anomaly. Pro-Mthwakazi politicians are aware of Mthwakazi’s harsh arid and semi-arid conditions and the implication on food production and food security.

Recurrent droughts define the Mthwakazi climate conditions. At present the climate dictates how much food is produced, we need to change that state and be in control of how much food we produce. We cannot talk of independence until we can figure out how best to achieve food security for all, not some citizens and protect the land and environment for this and the future generations.

Image Copyright @Sunday News (2019) Impact of drought in Matabeleland North

Complacency is when people adopt a narrative that normalises the abnormal; it should never be viewed as normal that Mthwakazi cannot feed herself. It must never be acceptable that our food security is the responsibility of other regions in Zimbabwe. Now more than ever before, the pro-Mthwakazi agenda needs to raise the issue of food security to the same pedestal as political freedoms, rights and independence if the whole project is to resonate with the public.

Pro-Mthwakazi politicians must start shifting their focus to raising and stabilising local food production and away from the misplaced Zimbabwean government’s economic misnomer that places the responsibility of food on commercial farmers and Mashonaland and the rest of us only turn up when we are ready to eat it.

Growing our own food is central to our food security, and we want to protect that privilege. We want our people to be able to produce enough for themselves and more. We realise the arid and semi-arid conditions barrier coupled with population pressure on the land means many cannot produce enough for themselves and that is where our leadership must show astute stewardship.   

How to grow food in increasingly desert conditions and improve food security in the hostile conditions of Mthwakazi is the greatest challenge this generation must face head on and turn around for good. Our politicians must seek to find the expertise, appropriate and affordable technologies that would help all our farmers (commercial and peasant) grow enough food and improve food security round the year.   

It all begins in the education system from home extending well into the formal sector. An investment on self-pride and innovative education that would inspire discoveries on how best to transform our arid lands to viable farming lands is key.

Time and again we have been critical of Zimbabwe’s formal education system that prepares scholars to be experts in their admiration of foreign creativity; it is unconscionable that our children are busy studying and getting a sense of achievement in their understanding of others’ stories/ discoveries/ innovation/ creativity, and how things are going in others’ backyards when what they should be doing is unfolding their own myths from their own backyard.

The challenge for our scientists has never been greater, as the debate on food security gains traction both locally and globally it must not be lost that our long-term goal is to produce enough food while protecting our land and environment for generations to come. This is where our colleges/ universities should come in handy, we need them to come up with innovative techniques that could turn the arid and semi-arid Mthwakazi green while protecting both the land and the environment.

Copyright @TEDx Liquid Nanoclay
China technological innovation converts desert sand into soil

A challenge it is, but impossible it is not. Technological advancement means rather than leaving our fate to nature, we can take control of it. Chinese work on transforming desert land to usable farmland and Norwegian scientist Kristian Morten Olesen’s Liquid Nanoclay (LNC) innovation – a process of mixing nano-particles of clay with water and binding them to sand particles to condition desert soil to usable agriculture land is evidence of limitless choices at our disposal to convert the arid and semi-arid Mthwakazi lands into a green zone.

Copyright Google maps cited by Harris (2019) The Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project is a long-standing dream for a permanent solution to water problems in Matabeleland

Techniques are available to secure food production, they just need honing into Mthwakazi specifics; let us go back to basics and elevate the Mthwakazi Zambezi Water Project to its rightful status – a top priority; and then investment in scientific research, Conservation Agriculture (CA), water harvesting and retention techniques, sustainable irrigation methods, drought resistant crops, etc. is necessary if Mthwakazi arid lands can be turned into viable agricultural land capable of producing enough food for our communities.

The 3 Principles of Conservation Agriculture
Copyright @NOAAClimate (2013) Harvesting rainwater

Access to food is a right, not an option; until you achieve internal food security and it is no longer normal for local and international donors and charity organisations to feed your citizens, you cannot talk of independence and freedom. Citizens must be protected from hunger and related complications including loss of dignity. Education is the primary link between dreams and reality. Therefore education institutions must be primed to produce graduates with a deep comprehension of Mthwakazi needs and that means education programmes and content must be designed with this and future generations in mind.

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