African Farmers Need More Time to Manage Crops: Herbicides Provide the Solution

Woman in labor

African Farmer Weeding

African farmers are constrained in the amount of time that they have available to improve their farming operations due to the inordinate amount of time required to hand weed their fields. About 50% of their time is taken up with hand weeding. Other opportunities ( such as planting a cash crop) are neglected. The use of herbicides to kill weeds in African crop fields would significantly free up time for farmers to improve their farms.

“The use of herbicides as a weed control strategy under under conservation agriculture (CA) in Zimbabwe was tested in two consecutive cropping season in 2009-10 and 2010-11… The use of herbicides in conservation agriculture systems can be recommended in most farming circumstances; it controls weed species that are difficult to manage, reduces the weeding time for farmers and is seen as a viable option even for smallholder farmers in Zimbabwe.

The results show that it is economical to use herbicides under CA because farmers save at least US$388 worth of time to be used on other off-or on-farm activities.

The time savings by using herbicides under CA can only be a benefit if farmers use this additional time meaningfully for other tasks. Farmers who choose to use herbicides are likely to have more time to commit to other farm operations such as growing vegetables in their gardens for sale, value addition to their farm products and some may also sell their labour off-farm to improve their income. The use of herbicides under CA systems reduces the labour constraints during the peak labour demand periods of the season… With improved weed management through use of herbicides, smallholder farmers can increase their yields and recover the costs of herbicides use.” 

Authors: Tarirai Muoni, et al.
Affiliation: University of Zimbabwe
Title: Weed control in conservation agriculture systems of Zimbabwe: identifying economical best strategies.
Source: Crop Protection. 2013. 53:23-28.

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