Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

Grain production in Zimbabwe has increased by 500 per cent, thanks to the use of a "biofertiliser" -- biologically fixed nitrogen (bfn). The use of biofertilisers has proved to be cheaper than artificial fertilisers. The technology has helped more than 2,000 smallholder farmers in increasing their soybean output.

Three quarters of Zimbabwe's population lives in rural areas and most of them depend on farming as their main source of food and income. Nearly 90 per cent people in rural areas are small holders, who live in zones with low and erratic rainfall, poor soil quality and low crop production due to inadequate nitrogen and phosphorus in the soil. Chemical fertilisers are simply not affordable for most small farmers.

Farmers in three provinces (Mashonaland East, West and Central), who traditionally cultivated maize have started cultivating soybean cultivation and tested the effects of Rhizobium biofertiliser. Field trials have shown that inoculation of seeds with biofertiliser on average more than doubled soybean grain yields. The marginal rate of return in shifting from "uninoculated" to "inoculated" treatment has been found to be about us $100 for every dollar invested. Farmers in Zimbabwe find it not only profitable to grow soybean as a cash crop but have also started to process it into products such as soya milk, flour and coffee beans. This provides an important alternative source of protein for the farmers, as they cannot readily afford animal protein.

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