By Albert Makendenge
Horticulture is the art of cultivating plants in gardens to produce food and medicinal ingredients or for comfort and ornamental purposes. Horticulture is a subdivision of agriculture which deals with the gardening of plants and therefore horticulturists are agriculturists who grow flowers, fruits and nuts, vegetables and herbs as well as ornamental trees and lawns. This branch of agriculture, one of the fastest growing in Zimbabwe, plays a vital role in the socio-economic lives of people in the country as explained below.
Most of the crops (flowers and herbs) that are grown in horticulture are high value cash crops. Unlike agricultural crops like pulses and cereals, the profit per square meter is much higher. Demand for high nutrition crops such as those grown in horticulture has increased significantly with a rapid rise in population and this, therefore goes without saying that the activity comes with larger profits.
Horticulture also goes a long way in addressing the food security and nutrition situation in the country. It makes for the availability and accessibility of fruits and vegetables that are full of nutrition (usually rich in vitamins, minerals, proteins and fibre). This is very critical for a developing country like Zimbabwe that continues to see its population and malnutrition cases on the increase.
Agriculture, the sector upon which the country’s economy is firmly hinged, employs quite a lot of people and horticulture certainly plays its part in this. This is very much because of the very fact that horticulture supports a wide range of industries such as seed producers, agricultural suppliers, equipment and tools, manufacturers, distributors, logistics, education and research, retailers and many others. The green industry thus creates a lot of opportunities for job seekers and business owners.
Improved food availability, improved incomes and an improved economy all work to lead to a better quality of life and this cannot stress enough the importance of the horticultural sector both now and in the future.