Let me simplify the idea of Pfumvudza. Pfumvudza belongs to those applications that initially are simple and affordable. After some time, these initial simple applications are improved while maintaining affordability. If we adopt the mindset the Dutch have in agriculture that build an innovation system (agro-tech, breeders, agricultural materials, logistics, etc) and think-tanks on agriculture centred around their dedicated agricultural research university called Wageningen University & Research (WUR), we would be taking the underlying principles of Pfumvudza and improving on them.
The Brett Chulu Column
The Dutch are now on the next vision of agriculture they call “circular agriculture”. Guess what? Pfumvudza has elements of circular agriculture. The Dutch have a vision to be the world leader in circular agriculture by 2030. Circular agriculture is simply farming with nature as opposed to farming against nature. It is high-tech farming that works with nature. It will be a high-tech Eden. Some of the features of circular agriculture are high dependency on natural fertilisers and elimination of pesticides.
You might as well see circular agriculture as highly productive near hi-tech organic farming. Organic farming currently has no capacity to produce serious volumes at low cost. By 2050, we expect three billion more mouths to feed in the world. It is estimated that as the world we need to increase our agricultural output in the next 30 years to exceed what the last combined 8 000 years produced.
Without circular agriculture, relying on the intensive agriculture techniques that took traction in the 1950s -1960s agricultural revolution, the planet will reach a point where it will stop yielding. Circular farming will try and address this. Circular agriculture, according to the Dutch will be just like the green revolution of the 1950s and 1960s where a leap in productivity was achieved via synthetic fertilisers and mechanisation was achieved. The Dutch are working on it and judging from their past record, they are likely to achieve this by 2030.
We need to see in Pfumvudza the seeds of the future of agriculture — we need to believe in ourselves and build our local circular agriculture research on the ideas of Pfumvudza.
In short, Pfumvudza can be improved from the initial “dhiga ufe” complaint, a derisive term coined to critique Pfumvudza by some analysts and commentators.
We need to introduce technology to Pfumvudza. I see Pfumvudza as was seminally developed in this country in the 1980s which is what we have adopted this year as Pfumvudza 1.0. There is scope for Pfumvudza 2.0, Pfumvudza 3.0, Pfumvudza 4.0 and so on and so forth.
I have already seen elements of Pfumvudza 2.0. A farmer friend in Gweru is doing Pfumvudza under drip. This has produced an excellent crop with 3-4 huge cobs per plant. This will by far exceed the 1 tonne per hectare benchmark from Pfumvudza 1.0.
Another friend of mine has experimented with organic Pfumvudza and achieved 3 huge cobs per plant.
The Dutch have a questioning attitude; why cannot it be done (this way).
There is another group that has a questioning attitude: “Why should it be done that way when it doesn’t work?” There is an opportunity to test and see if it does not work — if it works we win. This is the essence of research and development. The purpose of formal research is to find new knowledge that with determination yields new technology and models.
There lies the difference between the Dutch and the Pfumvudza critiques in terms of national psyche in agriculture — the Dutch question to create new knowledge while armchair critics question to deride what they either do not like or have not fully understood.
Let us borrow the Dutch questioning attitude. The question is: what needs to be done so that we can do 1 hectare with Pfumvudza thinking?
Put differently, let us look for ways to get around “dhiga ufe” concern. There are things that have already been happening before Pfumvudza became a national pursuit — people hire tractors to plough. Why can’t that happen with Pfumvudza? We do ridges using tractors all the time for horticultural projects. The same can be done for Pfumvudza. The District Development Fund could do that or some other dedicated agency. If we wish it to work, it will.
The current national Pfumvudza 1.0 involves giving assistance in terms of seed, fertilisers and extension services. Why can’t we give assistance to the communal farmers in terms of machines such as tractors and planters, for example — a few machines allocated to a district?
Toyota did not start with a Lexus. We did not start with desktops and iPads — we started with the mini-frame computer that filled a room with the “dhiga ufe” equivalent of punch cards. Today, the smartphone, in comparison, fits in a pocket and is more powerful than the mini-frame. They started with those sub-compact vehicles, affordable to the millions of people. That is the path Pfumvudza can be made to take. The great thing about Pfumvudza 1.0 is it is highly productive on paper than advanced agriculture in Zimbabwe. It needs to be mechanised and infused with better technology. It will take a Zimbabwean entrepreneur just like what happens in the Food Valley (the Silicon Valley of Agriculture) of The Netherlands to develop the improvements. Where is the Zimbabwean Food Valley? Where is the Zimbabwean Wageningen University & Research?
Let us seize the opportunity and collaborate with the open-minded Dutch whose government has called on like-minded countries and entities to work together in the journey of discovery and job-creation of circular agriculture. We do not know how circular agriculture will look like when it has blossomed. It is being created. Pfumvudza is a good starting point for us as a country to research into the future that the Dutch are creating.
One of the original developers of Pfumvudza wrote me last year informing me that he had developed a mini-centre pivot for Pfumvudza. So the developers of Pfumvudza do not see the original Pfumvudza as a finished product but one that can be improved upon.
Chulu is a management consultant and a classic grounded theory researcher who has published research in an academic peer-reviewed international journal. — email@example.com.