Choosing crops for drought-prone areas

| October 16, 2017

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This week’s Farmer story from Zimbabwe highlights the potential benefits of choosing drought-tolerant crop varieties. Our Script of the week looks at a somewhat broader approach to adapting to climate change: Choosing drought-tolerant crops. This script was part of a package we distributed in 2005 which focused on the many impacts of HIV and AIDS on farming communities.

Because HIV and AIDS weakens or kills adults in the prime of their working life, it has a significant impact on the workforce, and consequently on farming and food security in rural communities. This is an important consideration when planning programming on HIV and AIDS for rural audiences.

One of the factors that increases the vulnerability of rural people to the impact of HIV and AIDS is drought. When farmers face so many other challenges, it is important that they reduce the risk of crop failure from drought as much as possible. Farmers can reduce this risk by growing drought-resistant crops. This script discusses how crops sometimes fail because they’re not grown in the right conditions.

Examples of drought-resistant crops that you may want to discuss in your broadcasts are: cassava, finger and pearl millet, teff, fonio, amaranth species, sorghum, date palm, and a great number of traditional vegetables and fruits. These all do relatively well in a drought.

But the most important thing is to encourage your listeners to find out what grows well locally. These species could be well known already, but may be wrongly seen as “poor people’s food” or “old-fashioned.” In many areas, such species are in danger of being lost forever because they have been replaced with more popular crops. Yet they are often more nutritious and hardier, and better adapted to local climate and soils.

Farmers need other ways to cope with drought as well. Capturing rainwater on rooftops or in the soil, using soil conservation techniques such as mulches, using low-cost drip irrigation … there are many possibilities. Find out from farmers in your audience how they cope with drought and discuss their ideas in your programs. A call-in format might be a good way to share methods.