Cropping strategies, soil fertility investment and land management practices by smallholder farmers in communal and resettlement areas in Zimbabwe uri icon

abstract

  • Three smallholder villages located in typical communal (from 1948), old (1987) and new (2002) resettlement areas, on loamy sand. sandy loam and clay soils, respectively, were selected to explore differences on natural resource management and land productivity. Focus group discussions and surveys were carried out with farmers. Additionally, farmers in three wealth classes per village were chosen for a detailed assessment of their main production systems. Maize grain yields (t ha(-1)) in the communal (1.5-4.0) and new resettlement areas (1.9-4.3) were similar but significantly higher than in the old resettlement area (0.9-2.7), despite lower soil quality in the communal area. Nutrient input use was the main factor controlling maize productivity in the three areas (R-2 = 59-83%). while soil quality accounted for up to 12%. Partial N balances (kg ha(-1) yr(-1)) were significantly lower in the new resettlement (-9.1 to + 14.3) and old resettlement (+7.4 to +9.6) than in the communal area (+2.1 to +59.6) due to lower nutrient applications. Averaged P balances were usually negative. Consistently, maize yields. nutrient applications and partial N balances were higher in the high wealth class than in poorer classes. This study found that most farmers in the new resettlement area were exploiting the inherent soil nutrient stocks more than farmers in the other two areas. We argue that effective policies supporting an efficient fertilizer distribution and improved soil management practices, with clearer rights to land, are necessary to avoid future land degradation and to improve food security in Zimbabwe, particularly in the resettlement areas. Copyright (C) 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

publication date

  • 2009
  • 2009