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Zimbabwe celebrates millet as seed festival roars into life

By Tafadzwa Muranganwa

The 2023 National Seed Festival rolls into life in Harare this Friday with focus aimed at restoring domestic interest in millets, now seen as a ‘forgotten and underutilised crop’.

The annual festival is held to promote food and seed sovereignty in Zimbabwe.

In a press statement, organisers say this year’s festival theme dovetails with the world stance to celebrate the small-seeded grass, which is part of the family of human cereal foods.

“Every year, we focus on celebrating a particular traditional food and this year our focus will be on millets as we join the rest of the world in celebrating 2023 as the international year of millets.

“Our theme as the Zimbabwe Seed Sovereignty Programme (ZSSP) this year is ‘Celebrating the wonder of Zimbabwean Millets’.

“In particular, we are promoting Barnyard Millet (locally known as Svoboda) which was popular in some parts of Masvingo province.

“Barnyard Millet had become a lost variety which was rediscovered during a baseline survey done by one of the partners of the ZSSP, Zimbabwe Smallholder Organic Farmers’ Forum (ZIMSOFF) in Bikita.

“Svoboda is a classic example of forgotten and underutilised crops which are hotspots of nutritionand resilience,” said Theophilus Mudzindiko, the Programmes Coordinator for the Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM) Zimbabwe which is coordinating the programme.

The event will be held at the Harare Botanical Gardens and will draw participants from the country’s community of small-scale farmers, seed custodians, government, civil society, private sector, media, and the general public.

Mudzindiko said part of the array of lined up activities shall be an open gala set to feature traditional dance and drama.

“The event is open for all who want to attend and will comprise of various traditional dances from different parts of Zimbabwe, mbira, drama, dialogue on seed and food issues as well as the sharing, exchange and trade of farmer managed seeds.

“On that same day, there will be a roadshow that will visit major bus terminuses in Harare including Mbare, Fourth Street, and Market Square bus terminuses, raising awareness on and promoting the consumption of traditional foods,” Mudzindiko said.

There have been concerns that most laws and policies on seed and food are colonial relics which need to be amended for the country to realise its sovereignty in these sectors.

Indigenous seeds and foods have also been cited as climate resilient hence the push to adopt them to fight the ravaging effects of climate change.

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