Harare (New Ziana) –Acceptance of the vitamin A rich orange maize variety is likely to increase following the roping in of traditional leaders to promote its cultivation by communal farmers.
The company that manufactures the variety, Mukushi Seeds, on Thursday handed over 300 sacks packed with 10 packets of 10 kg bags of the seeds each to the Chief’s Council president, Fortune Chambura, for distribution to their members throughout the country.
The traditional leaders are expected to plant the hybrid seed variety on demonstration plots in their different villages.
Speaking at the handover ceremony, Mukushi Seeds director John MacROBERT said the orange colour of the vitamin A rich maize was affecting its acceptance since the company started producing it in 2014.
“The majority of consumers in Zimbabwe, like other Sub-Saharan countries, prefer white maize to orange or any yellow-coloured maize,” he said.
He said the negative perception started during the colonial period, when white maize was first introduced in Africa, and since then consumers became accustomed to white maize.
From that time, any orange or yellow coloured maize was perceived as unsuitable for human consumption and was used as livestock feed.
“The failure to differentiate orange maize from yellow varieties which are perceived as inferior white ones, has affected the acceptance of the variety despite its high nutritional value,” said MacROBERT.
He said lack of knowledge about its nutritional value, cultural beliefs and behavioural patterns were still creating barriers to production and consumption of the orange-coloured maize in the country.
“The provision of adequate nutritional information and constantly educating the public of the nutritional benefits of the vitamin A rich Orange maize can improve its adoption in the country,” he said.
MacROBERT said his company had decided to rope in traditional leaders to promote the orange maize which was rich in vitamin A in order to alleviate nutritional challenges among marginalised groups, who are mostly found in rural communities.
He said the orange maize variety was early maturing, had a high yield potential and was drought and disease tolerant.
Zimbabweans developed a negative perception of yellow maize during the 1991-92 severe droughts when the government imported more than 10 million tons of the grain from Argentina and Brazil and it developed a bad taste during transportation and storage.
Because of its similar colour, the orange maize has been confused with yellow maize and as a result, has been widely shunned by farmers.
Accepting the seed sacks, Chief Charumbira commended Mukushi Seeds for recognising the important role that traditional leaders could play in promoting the variety, which had huge nutritional benefits.
“You did well by recognising that we are the ones who work with the people,” he said.
“Your vitamin A rich orange maize is likely to be embraced if it is readily available in shops and have the same culinary and sensory characteristics as white maize.”
He urged the company to ensure that the seeds were available in shops and that they were rightly priced for farmers to access them.
Mukushi seeds also supplies groundnut, small grains, cowpea hybrid seed varieties as well as agronomic services.