Response of farmers to technological transfer in the methyl bromide phase-out programme in Zimbabwe: The floating tray system.
Sponsored by UNIDO, Zimbabwe in 2004, resolved to train about 28,033 tobacco farmers in five years so as to phase out the last 182 tonnes of methyl bromide then used in tobacco seedling production. The replacement technology chosen was the floating tray system. Floating tray system equipment for effective phase out was distributed to farmers with the overall objective of phasing out methyl bromide by 2009. Largely, most of the farmers were trained and equipment distributed for the effective phase- out as planned. This survey, carried out seven years later in 2011, intended to evaluate the adoption of the floating tray system by farmers. This information is required in order to assess the country’s readiness for the 2015 banning of methyl bromide use in tobacco seedbeds. In addition, the survey sought to find out the role tobacco production played in deforestation and food security among other minor objectives. The survey utilized both qualitative and quantitative methods and was administered mainly on a face-to-face manner at the Boka and Tobacco Sales auction floors in Harare during the 2010/2011 selling season. In essence, the survey found out that the majority of the growers (44%) were males over 36 years old and that 76% were smallholder farmers farming on land below two hectares in size. Only 11% used the floating tray system although 61% had heard about the technology and could not use it citing the cost (48%), difficulties in procuring the substrate used in the technique, and lack of know how (39%) among other reasons. An alarming 74 % sterilised their seedbed by burning wood. Almost all farmers (91%) used the proceeds from the tobacco crop to support their maize crop. The few who used the floating tray system agreed that, it was easy (96%) and that an on-farm substrate would be better. In addition, they agreed that procurement of substrate was a problem (64%) and almost all (91%) wished to be trained in both the making of on-farm substrate from farm waste, and in the use of the floating tray system. Almost all used chemicals as a risk aversion technique. We concluded that, the floating tray system would be a recluse of a few after phase-out unless supportive measures are put in place. We also found that the use of indigenous wood in the production of tobacco would probably lead to deforestation.
Key Words: Deforestation, maize, ozone layer, tobacco