Jona Mutasa: self motivated Push-Pull farmer and trainer

A key goal of icipe is to ensure that the Centre’s technologies are transferred to as many end users as possible. To achieve this vision, icipe uses a range of strategies, including the media, to create awareness. The effectiveness of these efforts is demonstrated by the impressive story of Jona Mutasa, a Zimbabwean farmer who learnt about the Centre’s Push-Pull through a magazine article, and has now become a prominent trainer, leading to over 2000 farmers adopting the technology.

For close to 40 years, Jona Mutasa worked with various non governmental organisations in Masvingo Province, southeastern Zimbabwe, providing his own farm as a trial site for new maize and cereal technologies, and encouraging other farmers to test them as well.

Jona Mutasa: self motivated Push-Pull farmer and trainer
Jona Mutasa pictured in his thriving Push-Pull plot

In 2007, Jona read an article in a UK magazine about a new technology known as Push-Pull, which was changing the lives of farmers in Kenya by combating problems of stemborers, Striga and low soil fertility.

“In Zimbabwe, we had been battling with these three challenges since the early 1980s.  In particular, the Striga problem had become extremely difficult for us to resolve. After reading the article, I foresaw an opportunity to end our problems,” he explains.

As a result, Jona sent a letter to icipe researchers quoted in the article, seeking guidance about starting Push-Pull demonstration and learning sites to encourage adoption of the technology in Masvingo. Prof. Zeyaur Khan, icipe Leader of Push-Pull, sent him a range of literature (e.g. ‘how to’ instruction manuals and general information fliers) on the technology. Due to strict phytosanitary regulations, it was not possible to transfer various Push-Pull inputs to Zimbabwe. However, icipe researchers advised Jona on how to employ locally available materials such as Napier grass and Desmodium.

In 2008, Jona opened his first Push-Pull demonstration and training sites, reaching about 200 farmers in that year. Most of the trainees decided to give the technology a chance. Simultaneously, Jona was undertaking multplication of Desmodium seeds, which he distributed to farmers interested in adopting the technology. The initial yield increases were highly impressive, for example up from 40 kgs to 2400 kgs on a 50×50m plot. The Striga weed also started diminishing. In subsequent years, the effectiveness of the technology became even more visible, and the demand for Push-Pull increased. As a result, in 2012, in partnership with  other volunteer farmers, Jona established a community based organisation known as Kushereketa Rural Development Organization (KURDO). 

Through this platform, Jona continues to organise field days on Push-Pull. As a result, about 2000 farmers are currently practising Push-Pull in Masvingo and other provinces of Zimbabwe.

Moreover, in 2017, the newly launched icipe Technology and Transfer Unit (TTU) learnt about Jona’s efforts, and has now linked up with KURDO towards more extensive dissemination of Push-Pull in Zimbabwe.

“For icipe, KURDO is a great entry point for scaling out Push-Pull. Our goal is to enhance KURDO’s effectiveness by facilitating linkage with key players and government stakeholders in Zimbabwe,” explains Dr Saliou Niassy, Head, icipe TTU.

He adds: “We are providing additional inputs and training materials, as well as supporting the training of trainers to boost efforts in scaling out Push-Pull.” 

“One of my proudest moments was to see representatives from icipe and other stakeholders from research, including high level government and NGO representatives, assembled to conduct a scooping mission of Push-Pull in Zimbabwe. It showed me how far we have come since that first contact with icipe 10 years ago,” notes Jona.

As Jona further observes, linking up with icipe enables him to envision how far we can still go, especially given that the climate-adapted version of Push-Pull has been shown to be effective in controlling the fall armyworm.