About 5 000 urban dwellers in Zimbabwe are set to be part of a pilot project run by the World Food Program (WFP) this year that seeks to produce as much fresh vegetables and legumes in the inner city through a scientific farming technique that is devoid of soil, 263Chat has learnt.
The Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) is a hydroponic system where in a very shallow stream of water containing all the dissolved nutrients required for plant growth is re-circulated past the bare roots of plants in a watertight gully, also known as channels.
This technique is suited for settings with limited space for farming and in deserts where soil fertility is minimal.
Speaking on the sidelines of the World Food Day commemorations in Harare this morning, WFP exhibition team leader, Pious Ncube said the model is a first in the country.
“This is a pilot project in Zimbabwe. It’s an innovation so we are starting with 5 000 people in 2021 in the urban areas and they will be working on this and this is a first of its kind in Zimbabwe,” said Ncube.
“We are promoting this in urban areas because in urban areas we have limited land, space so we are promoting this so that our people have access to nutritious vegetables.”
With land becoming scarce and water supply dwindling owing to the effects of climate change, the technique is gaining popularity among urbanites world over as space and land are scarce commodities.
The containers are often installed on rooftops to improvise on limited available space.
It has also been largely credited for conversing water as it rotates the same water until the plant is mature for harvest.
The plants are placed in pipes through which water and nutrients are pumped throughout the day.
“What it does is growing of plants without soil, with medium of water only. You can grow any other plant in this case we have got lettuce. So our lettuce is drinking water from this 20 litre bucket. In the water we have hydro-feed or calcium which is a nutrient to feed the root of the plant. Then in six weeks this lettuce will be mature for harvest,”
“So we have got our small pump, which also feeds water into the system so the water is recycled. This technique is a simplified technique which uses less water so in terms of water conservation only 10 percent of water us used. Can you imagine 20 litres of water in six weeks to harvest? It also uses very little power as the water is filled into the containers it automatically switches off to conserve power and after that you have your harvest,” said Ncube.
A variety of vegetables and legumes can be produced using the technique.
According to WFP, about 5 million Zimbabweans are in need of humanitarian assistance with a majority being in urban areas where the cost of living has risen.
Despite the country having attained a bumper harvest in the last harvest early this year, experts say food production of major cereals like maize were not equitably produced across the country and also the cost of purchasing food has risen sharply.