Farmers’ production constraints, perceptions and preferences of cowpeas in Buhera District, Zimbabwe
Many smallholder farmers face crop production constraints, especially under rapidly changing climatic conditions. A survey was carried out to assess farmers’ production constraints, traits, and preferred cowpea varieties. A semi-structured questionnaire was used in a survey of Buhera District, Zimbabwe, in March and April of 2018. Women farmers dominated the survey as they were 52% of the surveyed population, while men occupied 48% of the total population. Eighty-three percent of farmers cited the shortage, unavailability, and cost of fertiliser. Sixteen per cent of farmers acknowledged that they do not have access to quality seeds, and 1% cited labour as the major constraint in cowpea production. Cowpea yield varied from 100 to 500 kg/ha. However, 48% of farmers harvested 200 kg/ha. As for abiotic factors, farmers ranked heat (86%), drought (10%), and soil fertility (4%) as the most important abiotic factors. Ninety-one percent of farmers ranked rust as the most destructive disease, while 2% ranked storage rot, 1% ranked anthracnose, and 1% ranked downy mildew. Eighty-one percent of farmers cited aphids as the main pests, while 3% ranked thrips, 3% ranked legume borers, and 2%
ranked pod borers as other pests. Fifty-two percent of farmers preferred varieties that are resistant to diseases such as rust, whereas 48% were not concerned about diseases. As for qualitative traits, 50% of farmers had no specific colour preference, 32% preferred white colour, 14% preferred brown colour, 3% preferred red colour, and 1% preferred tan colour. For quantitative traits, such as grain size, pod size, plant height, and head size, the preferences of farmers varied. Ninety-nine percent of the farmers interviewed preferred cowpea varieties that are bred for drought tolerance, as Buhera District is frequented by intermittent droughts. Farmers’ experience in growing cowpeas ranged from 5 to 30 years. The top ranked accessions were CBC1, IT 18, and Chibundi Chitsvuku, while the least ranked was Kangorongondo. Identified constraints to cowpea farming included lack of education, insect pests, diseases, drought, weeds, harvesting difficulties and a lack of agriculture extension advice. The survey showed that there is a need to breed for biotic factors such as pests and diseases and abiotic factors such as drought and moisture stress.
Key words: Buhera District, Constraints, cowpeas, perceptions, preference, variety, Zimbabwe
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