Blog post by: Safiyya Kassim

This blog post emerged as one of the five winners of the YPARD/AGRINATURA/AgriSciences Platform E-Competition: SHARE YOUR STORY! for the MSc and BSc Category. The competition which was tagged your Research your Story! aimed to help students have a better sense of ownership of their research and to communicate the most important parts of their research in a creative easy to read storytelling way.

Enjoy reading!

My arduous, yet rewarding path through the Czech University of Life Sciences Prague (ZU) had not been easy. Getting a 1-1.2 total average required the highest level of mental agility and devotion. Halfway through the second semester, and after numerous hours of Calculus study, I recognized that to stand out from the crowd, I had to contend with those around me as well as my inner self.

University had taught me many lessons – the most valuable of which was to 'keep my eye fixed firmly on the prize'; I knew full-well what was required of me. By the end of the second semester, I had chosen a research topic based on "The effects of antibiotic resistance in animals, on humans" for my dissertation. I was as excited as a child on Christmas Day, and almost confident that my fantasy of working in a laboratory would undoubtedly materialize. No sooner had I begun searching for a supervisor with the expertise in that specific field did the ruthless, uninvited, sincerely loathed COVID-19 knock on the worlds' door and decide to stay. I was devastated as I watched my dreams seep slowly through my fingers and become but a distant memory.

When I thought that all hope was lost, I was rescued from the pits of despair.

On the 25th of January 2021, I had a much-appreciated, invaluable consultancy with one of my favorite professors whom I hold in the highest esteem – who lives, eats, and breathes farming systems, development economics, and agriculture (Ing. Vladimír Verner, Ph.D.). He set me on the right path to choosing a new thesis topic and a supervisor best suited for the role (Ing. et Ing. William Nkomoki, Ph.D.). "Agricultural Programs Affecting Food Security and Sustainability in Zimbabwe" is my new research topic.

My research's goal is to look into the effects and influence of certain government support programs on agricultural productivity, and food security in Zimbabwe, as well as the prevalence of household food security, and the effect of Climate Smart Agricultural practices (CSA) on sustainability. I will collect data through semi-structured questionnaires and one-on-one interviews with household heads. Experts in specific fields will be interviewed in focus groups and in-depth interviews. Secondary data from science direct, the web of science, statistics databases such as the World Bank, FAO, FAOSTAT, and other sources will be examined further. Data will be analyzed using SPSS, and other appropriate statistical methods.

The research aims to determine smallholder farmers' perception of government input support programs, including the Special Maize for Import Substitution Scheme, and the recently implemented Pfumvudza program. Given that the agricultural sector in Zimbabwe accounted for 8.3% of GDP in 2019 (FAO 2019), and that agricultural production in Zimbabwe has significantly decreased as a result of the negative effects of several socio-economic, institutional, and policy-related issues, threatening the country's already critically declining food security. Furthermore, climate change has had the most destructive effect(s) on largely rainfed farming systems over the years. Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) is a viable solution to the problem. In addition, the relationship between institutional characteristics and the implementation of CSA techniques will be examined in my study.

This research will be of significant value to both farmers and policymakers improving agricultural yields. It will also assist policymakers in changing policies and implementing more favorable programs for smallholder farmers, enhancing household food security.

Thanks to my fantastic team and my supervisor, my objectives will be realized without a shadow of a doubt.

Picture credit: Safiyya Kassim

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