WE, in the village, are busy in the fields preparing for the summer cropping season.
However, with the effects of climate change taking their toll, especially in farming communities, many farmers are now frustrated, with some afraid to put seed in the ground.
Without doubt, seasons have shifted, which has many a time thrown farmers’ plans into disarray.
Traditional dates for the start of the rain season have changed and so are the times it is supposed to end.
And this year, the Meteorological Services Department has predicted an El Nino; rains could be more or less, which affects farmers.
But farmers can still thrive despite these adverse conditions, even those without irrigation facilities, in the event of a drought.
Elders here in the village advise that planting small grains has always served them well because a good harvest is guaranteed regardless of the vagaries of the weather.
Long before the advent of crops such as maize, small grains, that include sorghum, pearl and finger millet, were the crops that played a vital role in food and nutrition security.
These were the crops that were consumed by the settlers when they first came into the country before they engaged in agricultural activities.
Settlers, for a long time, were sustained by trading with the indigenes who had surplus grain in storage that resulted from small grains’ inability to fail.
Small grains are not only advantageous to produce but have numerous uses as well.
The Second Republic, aptly led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, is presently engaged in ensuring that the country becomes fully self-sustainable and growing small grains, especially in dry regions, is one of the surest ways of improving household food security.
Growing small grains works because they are tropically adapted C4 plants with high water use efficiency due to their morphological characteristics that reduce water transpiration for growth and yield of the crop.
And their characteristic of early maturity fits in with the current climate change trends.
In the event that maize fails, small grains can remain as a stable grain reserve.
For instance, pearl millet can withstand hot dry conditions and can be grown on soils of low water holding capacity where other crops fail.
It is ranked most drought-tolerant after sorghum and finger millet.
Finger millet, besides being drought resistant, also has long storage life and is seldom attacked by insects or moulds, making it an important crop in risk-avoidance strategy in food security.
As a people, we should improve our attitude towards small grains as well as increase production support so that they phenomenally take off.
In the past, production of small grains has been affected by poor prioritisation of resources as most farmers do not allocate inputs to small grains, considering them as secondary and not a priority.
Some grow small grains in their worst part of arable land while others do not prioritise time of planting and this really has a negative effect on their production.
However, small grains can be consumed on a large scale and are as good as crops like maize, especially considering that they are a healthier option with most small grains being a rich source of carbohydrates.
Sorghum and pearl millet are rich in vitamins and minerals, especially potassium, calcium and phosphorus.
The minerals are important for healthy bones and teeth while finger millet is rich in iron, an important component of haemoglobin in red blood cells.
Iron is an important requirement for children under five years, pregnant women and the chronically ill patients.
Having been forewarned about possible drought, farmers can make this cropping seasons a success by adopting and producing the right crops.