Editor's Note: We are excited to bring this guest post from Rumbi Mbambo. Rumbi is the force behind Greens Grenade and co-founder of Hortech. She is currently studying for a degree in Horticulture.
What is horticulture?
Horticulture is the science and art of producing, improving, marketing, and using fruits, vegetables, flowers, and ornamental plants. It differs from botany and other plant sciences in that horticulture incorporates both science and aesthetics. But to use this definition of horticultural products, it is necessary to know what crops are appropriately assigned to the horticultural industry. It is generally accepted by researchers and educators in horticultural science that horticultural crops include:
- tree, bush and perennial vine fruits;
- perennial bush and tree nuts;
- vegetables (roots, tubers, shoots, stems, leaves, fruits and flowers of edible and mainly annual plants);
- aromatic and medicinal foliage, seeds and roots (from annual or perennial plants);
- cut flowers, potted ornamental plants, and bedding plants (involving both annual or perennial plants); and
- trees, shrubs, turf and ornamental grasses propagated and produced in nurseries for use in landscaping or for establishing fruit orchards or other crop production units.
Why is the horticulture sector important?
Agriculture is the backbone of Zimbabwe’s economy. The majority of Zimbabweans derive their livelihoods from agriculture and other related rural economic activities. It provides employment and income for about 60-70 percent of the population, supplies 60 percent of the raw materials required by the industrial sector and contributes 40 percent of total export earnings.
Horticultural produce accounts for most of the export earnings that the country earns after tobacco. At its peak in 1999, the sector earned the country $142 million, mainly from cut flowers, citrus, and off-season vegetables exported mainly to Europe and the Middle East. With high unemployment, investments in the horticulture sector are the way to go. When agriculture under performs, the rest of the economy suffers. If more farmers produced horticulture products, there will be ripple effects in overall employment creation due to the labour intensive nature of the sector. The challenge though is that horticulture is capital intensive and requires skilled labour at times which discourages a lot of people from getting into it.
What not to do when getting started in horticulture?
Don’t be fooled, though, producing horticultural crops requires expertise. Always have an agronomist/horticulturist on hand. Many people mistakenly think that the same basic practices and skills that they’ve used in their home garden work for commercial horticulture production. This results in them producing non-competitive and sub-standard quality fruits and vegetables that do not meet the supermarket produce quality standards. This is one of the reasons we find other countries' produce filling up our supermarkets at the expense of our own.
Your action items:
#1. Read up on your chosen horticulture crop
I urge all farmers who want to produce horticultural crops to read the latest literature on the crop they want to grow. They should also register for a training workshop on that crop.
#2: Get your soil tested
Soil and water tests are also vital in helping you know how to fertilise your crop without applying excess or inadequate amounts. Never judge the state of your soil with your own eyes always get a professional to help you.
All that I’ve written above is academically correct, but I believe there is a feeling or passion attached to something you do whole heartedly. If you do something with love you will excel at it. Growing up my world was horticulture. The lawn in the front and backyard, an orchard and fresh vegetable garden and the amazing part was it was in Beitbridge! Anything is possible anywhere.
Horticulture is my love that’s why I started a page on Facebook called Greens Grenade where I discuss horticultural issues and answer any questions farmers have or give solutions to everyday problems they face setting up a farm. So go ahead fall in love with horticulture, young and old alike. I promise you won’t regret it. The muddy and most rewarding game I’ve ever played so enjoy your farming journey.
You can learn more about Rumbi on Greens Grenade. Please thank her for sharing her advice.