Urban hydroponics farmers take on water challenges
Patrick Chitumba, Head of the Midlands Bureau
IN the backyard of a house in one of Gweru’s oldest suburbs, Ascot, a 44-year-old mother of two uses hydroponics to grow vegetables.
Ms. Shelter Saidi, a suburban vendor has always had a passion for farming, but water shortages were a limiting factor.
Her water tap has been dry for two weeks and she goes to fetch water from a community borehole about a kilometer away.
Three months ago, a hydroponic system was installed in his garden by a non-governmental organization Welt Hunger Hilfe (WHH).
Hydroponics is the latest in advanced agricultural techniques.
It is about growing plants, vegetables and fruits in water mixed with solutions containing all the nutrients necessary for the development of a plant in the absence of soil or sun.
The system, which costs up to US $ 900, is a small greenhouse where water flows through a maze of pipes adorned with plants.
“Water is a challenge in Gweru and worse in Ascot. We go weeks without the precious liquid that definitely works against agriculture. My garden before the introduction of the hydroponic system was always dry, ”she said.
Ms. Saidi said hydroponics can save water by 90 percent.
“In hydroponics, water is conserved because it is reused many times. Plants grown in hydroponics also do not require pesticides as there are no soil-borne diseases. For example, if I fill a 20-liter bucket of water, it can water 45 green vegetable plants for 24 hours, which means less time collecting water from the community borehole.
Hydroponics can save water by 90 percent, ”she said.
Ms Saidi said she always has fresh vegetables for her family and also sells them to the public for US $ 1 a pack.
“This technique uses a mineral nutrient solution in an aqueous solvent. It is proven to be safe, fast, more economical and above all durable. There are many agricultural techniques that meet the different growing conditions that farmers face. For example, there is the use of natural inputs to produce healthy, chemical-free food, ”said Ms. Saidi who received training in how the system works from Welt Hunger Hilfe.
Mrs. Ruth Rugeje (36) who also benefited from the hydroponic system.
She said she grows tomatoes and spinach and hopes to increase production urgently.
“The challenge I see emerging is the high cost of setting up this system. Normally, we can afford to spend around US $ 900 for such a system. I am in love with it because it saves water, the vegetables are clean and are not affected by pests. I hope to save little by little to increase production, ”said Ms. Rugeje, who lives with her two brothers in her parents’ house.
WHH Gweru Estate Field Director Mr. Fanny Nyaunga said that with this technology they hope to bridge the gap between supply and demand by growing crops in highly controlled indoor environments instead of outdoor methods. traditional.
Hydroponics comes in many forms, but all of them come with advantages such as rapid pivoting ability, cleaner cultivation, hyper-local supply chain, and more sustainable operation than traditional farming.
“Hydroponics is a type of horticulture and a subset of hydroculture that involves growing plants (usually crops) without soil, using solutions of mineral nutrients in an aqueous solvent,” he said. he declares.
“Another advantage of the soilless route is that it generates more income as it barely requires labor to maintain the plants while generating 20 to 25% more products compared to farming. conventional.
“The greenhouse concept promotes year-round growth rather than waiting for the right season to grow particular plants. Rainfed agriculture has long been affected by seasonal fluctuations and caused heavy losses to farmers.
Mr. Nyaunga said that around 940 households in Gweru benefit from a livelihood program managed by WHH.
He said his organization has injected more than US $ 2.8 million into the projects, which include poultry, hydroponics, shoe making and peanut butter making.
“Some of the beneficiaries have improved their livelihoods through the projects.
“The Urban Resilience Building Project, which began last year targeting urban households, is expected to end in December of this year. WHH is working with the World Food Program on the project, ”he said.