Lucerne or alfalfa (Medicago sativa) is a deep-rooted, temperate, perennial pasture legume that is well adapted to mixed farming systems. An established lucerne pasture provides an alternative source of forage for animal production, especially outside the growing season of annual crops and pastures. The deep roots of lucerne can dry the soil and thereby increase the capacity of soil to store water in times of excess, which reduces groundwater recharge. Optimising plant densities at establishment is critical to ensure high production over the life of the stand.
Lucerne grass is on-demand for the export market and Chiredzi is an ideal place for its growth given high temperatures in the area, said Agrico Managing Director Paul Kruger. “Livestock production is one of the key pillars of Masvingo Province’s economy and the area has been recording worrisome numbers of livestock deaths hence the timely long- term intervention by the government.”
Growing of Lucerne Grass in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe’s government put a plan on growing the drought-resistant Lucerne grass in the drought-stricken area of Chiredzi by gazetting Statutory Instrument 50 of 2021 on 26 February 2021, a development that will boost livestock production in the Lowveld and earn the country foreign currency.
“We have identified a development area and there is a company that has interests in growing Lucerne in this area beyond Runde river. They want to put something like 6 000 hectares both for domestic and export market,” said the Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing July Moyo who was also the acting Minister of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement in January 2020.
Due to lack of adequate rainfall areas like Chikombedzi, Majijimba, and Malisanga in Chiredzi south have so far recorded the highest number of livestock deaths.
Dendairy Managing Director, Darren Coetzee said though the project will start with 6 000 hectares of land they are looking forward to expanding the project which will directly benefit the local community.
“We are into Lucerne farming and in Kwekwe we have got a similar project, we believe this area has the potential for Lucerne production. This will help our livestock and dairy farmers and we believe if the project becomes a success we are looking forward to expanding it,” said Darren Coetzee.
Over the past few months, farmers have been urged to destock and buy supplementary feed. However, the supplementary feed has proven to be out of reach for many due to its pricing.
1000 Chiredzi families facing eviction
Journalists from TellZim News, NewsDay and The Herald were expelled from a meeting involving villagers from Chilonga Irrigation Scheme, Chiredzi RDC and the Minister of Local Government July Moyo in 2020.
The villagers were understood to be resisting plans by government to give their land to dairy company Dendairy which wanted to use it for a lucerne grass farming project. As the meeting was about to start at Chiredzi Town Council offices, District Intelligence Officer (DIO) Joseph Urimbo asked the media to go away.
"You guys are being recused from this meeting as it is a closed door meeting. All media are not allowed here," said Urimbo.
However, he allowed a Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) reporter to stay behind before ordering police officers to forcibly move away the reporters who had gathered some 20 metres away from the venue. Dendairy is eyeing an approximate 10 000 hectares in Chiredzi South and East for lucerne farming, and the project is expected to displace over 1000 families from their ancestral land. Lurcene grass, also called alfalfa, is used for making hay or animal fodder.
Some village sources said they could not cooperate with authorities as they feared yet another Chingwizi debacle. From 2014, government moved thousands of people from the vicinity of the Tugwi-Mukosi Dam which was still under construction, to a barren piece of land at Chingwizi in Mwenezi East where they still live in overcrowded and squalid conditions with no basic social amenities. Compensation for the displaced people has largely not been paid six years on although promises are made whenever an election is around the corner.