‘Intwasa farming concept increased my yields’

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BEAMING with joy, Mr Sofly Mthombeni (62) and his wife, Otilia (60) could not hide their excitement as they showed off their harvested maize at his homestead at Dundubala Resettlement area in Umguza District, Matabeleland North Province. Mr Mthombeni said they are expecting to deliver five tonnes of grain to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) out of 10 tonnes of maize harvested under the Government sponsored Intwasa/Pfumvudza Programme. 

For his farming efforts, Mr Mthombeni was voted the best farmer in his locality last week when he exhibited his crops under the maize and small grains category during the Redwood Zonal Agricultural Show, which was organised by Agritex. He walked away with two 5kg packs of maize seed, 2kg pack of small grains seed, a 20-litre bucket of molasses, bottles of herbicides and fungicides, a plough, a knapsack sprayer and gumboots. A Chronicle news crew visited Mr Mthombeni’s plot and he shared his success story.

Through farming, Mr Mthombeni said he managed to build his herd of cattle, starting off with five beasts and today he has 34. From the farming proceeds, Mr Mthombeni bought a truck and built a three-bedroomed house. “Farming is business to me and I eke out a living through farming and I sell my produce to the GMB. Through farming I managed to buy five beasts after selling maize to GMB and they have been multiplying over time,” he said. “I also bought a truck, which I am using to carry stockfeed and delivering my produce. I also built a three-bedroomed house using proceeds from farming.”

When Government introduced the new farming concept in 2020, Mr Mthombeni who used to rely on oxen for draught power, was initially pessimistic. It took a countless number of visits to his home by Agritex officers to try and convince him to adopt the Intwasa farming model. Mr Mthombeni has become a role model in his neighbourhood. He has made a great difference by emerging as a highly successful farmer who recorded a bumper harvest of maize despite the prolonged dry spell in February that affected most farmers across the country.

When Government introduced Intwasa in March 2020, the aim was to maximise productivity per unit area, even during drought periods. Intwasa involves the utilisation of small pieces of land and applying the correct agronomic practices for higher returns. The approach can be used in areas receiving marginal rainfall and still give high yields. According to agriculture experts, Intwasa ensures food self-sufficiency. An average family of four to six requires a bucket of maize every week and with Intwasa they can produce food to last them a whole year on a small piece of land.

With the Intwasa concept, a farmer can also irrigate crops using a bucket and get a bumper harvest as opposed to planting maize on a large area without adequate resources and end up getting one bucket or less per hectare “I started farming in 2008 after securing land under the Land Reform Programme. In my first year, I didn’t harvest much, but in the subsequent years, I have been recording bumper harvests and delivering surplus grain to GMB,” said Mr Mthombeni.

He said the highest quantity of grain that he has so far delivered to GMB was 10 tonnes during the 2019/2020 farming season. “This year, just like other farmers in most parts of the country, I was affected by drought and will only be able to deliver half of what I delivered to GMB in the previous season,” he said. Mr Mthombeni has managed to perfect the art of conservation agriculture after receiving support and extensive training from Agritex officers who have been working with farmers in Umguza district to increase the uptake of conservation agriculture.

“Agricultural extension officers have been training us on Intwasa and I have actually perfected my skills. “With Intwasa you don’t need expensive fertilisers and other inputs as conservation agriculture uses local resources to boost yields,” he said. “As a farmer, I have embraced Intwasa or Pfumvudza farming concept because it increases yields while protecting fields from erosion, improving soil quality and mitigating the effects of drought. “I planted early and adequately prepared my land, which is why I managed to salvage something meaningful in the fields despite the erratic rains last season.”

#From his bumper harvest, Mr Mthombeni said he will donate part of the maize to his relatives who were affected by drought. Mr Mthombeni attributed his success to his wife. “My wife is my pillar of strength when it comes to farming and she has been supportive throughout. “Everything that you are seeing is because of her support and hard work,” he said.

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