The Indian-based International Crops Research Institute for the Semi Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) which runs the Matopos Research Station in Matabeleland South Province, Zimbabwe is injecting US$30 million to establish a hub for small grains research for southern, eastern and central African regions.
The implementation of the project is with immediate effect and is a show of confidence in the country at a time Zimbabwe is implementing the re-engagement policy.
Grains have been part of African peoples’ lives from time immemorial but their consumption had been reduced due to the advent of the white man on the continent as people acquired exotic tastes brought in by the settlers.
However, with the advent of climate change and growing awareness on the advantages of traditional foods, Zimbabweans are going back to their roots and consuming healthy traditional foods which comprise mainly small grains.
ICRISAT Director General, Mr Peter Carberry informed President Emmerson Mnangagwa that they want to modernise Matopos and make it a world leading facility to breed improved varieties of pearl millet, sorghum, round nuts and chick peas, and use the facility to support farmers not only from Zimbabwe but the whole region for crop improvement.
The project is being funded by a number of sources including the Bill Bates Foundation.
Country representative, Dr Kizito Mazvimavi said the development is a boost the Matopos Research Station which has not been active for sometime, resulting in its activities migrating to Ethiopia and Malawi.
President Mnangagwa said small grains have always been the backbone of African cultures, adding that it is crucial for researchers to look at ways of increasing yields and productivity of the crops.
The Zimbabwean government has sought to incentivise small grain producers by ensuring the small grains are put in the same bracket as the highly lucrative cash crops grown in the country.