As drought destroys maize, Zimbabwe tries out new staples

JAMBEZI, Zimbabwe, Sept 11 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – For more than 20 years, Dalarex Ncube grew maize in arid Jambezi District, one of Zimbabwe’s driest regions, and his family ate maize porridge, the national staple.

But seven years ago, he began switching to growing sorghum and millet – both more tolerant of drought – for food and to sell.

At first, the switch wasn’t easy for his children, who “hated it”, he remembers. But “my children now enjoy the mealie-meal (porridge) from sorghum more than maize… because I have told them about the nutritive value of sorghum”, he said in an interview.

In a country where isitshwala (thick maize porridge) is ingrained in the national eating habits, Jambezi farmers are changing tack. They are growing alternate grains for food, cash and to improve their resilience to harsher weather conditions that have made maize an increasingly risky crop.

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