Farmers in Shamva have embraced the drought-tolerant castor bean crop amid an aggressive drive to increase production by the castor industry considering the changing climatic conditions.

While many maize farmers are facing insignificant harvests due to low rainfall in the summer season, castor bean farmers are enjoying favourable yields as the crop is fairly drought tolerant.

Shamva farmers who embraced castor bean production told the ZBC News at a field day in Katanya village that early harvests yielded high volumes although they were growing the crop for the first time.

“When I visited Bindura and heard of castor bean production, I was initially skeptical but after some research, I joined the programme. We had to water these plants using a cart and fetching water from the river since there were no rains but now the crop is looking good. We have already harvested the first reap,” said Susan Damiso.

“We decided as women to try out this crop after hearing of its benefits. After all, there is no harm in trying,” said Anna Makoto.

Agronomist, Munashe Mugwadi said farmers in high rainfall regions should be wary of over-feeding the plants, while those in dry areas like Rushinga and Mbire should take advantage of this crop.

“For farmers in wet areas we advise them to use ridges because if the plant gets too much food it will not yield much. For Mashonaland Central province this crop can be grown anywhere especially in Rushinga, Mbire and Mt Darwin. It just needs 500 ml and requires water during the establishment phase,” he said.

Castor bean promotion efforts have been met with skepticism by several farmers, but Zimbabwe Castor Industry Association Director, Batsirai Chitiyo said this is an industry-led initiative with by-products to be processed locally and farmers being guaranteed a market.

“We want to develop a castor industry in Zimbabwe. We will process oil and all the by-products of castor beans and we are there to ensure there is no side marketing in the industry. If any players want to buy castor beans, let them come on board and invest not to ship out raw materials so we are working with the government. This is something that will create employment,” he said.

The promotion of castor beans has been spurred by changing climatic conditions and need for foreign currency generation.

It is the source of castor oil and has a variety of uses such as motor oil, medicines, jewellery and stock feeds.