Recognising farmer innovation: the launch of the Phiri award

On October 24th at Barraza Pavilion in Tynwald in Harare, the Phiri award for farm and food innovators will be launched.


The award is named for Zephaniah Phiri, the renowned water harvester and ecological farmer from Zvishavane district, who is a long-time friend and inspiration to me. His innovations in wetland (vlei) farming over a fifty year period earned him first arrest and then national and international recognition. It’s hoped that the Phiri Award for Farm and Food Innovators will open a new chapter in advancing indigenous innovation in Zimbabwe.

Just as Mr. Phiri discovered new ways to produce food abundantly and sustainably through detailed study and active management of the soils and hydrology of his land, so too are other dedicated Zimbabwean farmers making quiet breakthroughs that advance food sovereignty in their communities.

Just as Mr. Phiri shared his innovations with thousands of visitors from across the country, Africa and the world, so too can other local innovators be recognised and assisted to disseminate their innovations, technologies and sustainable farming practices.   Just as Mr. Phiri’s innovations – such as water infiltration pits in contour ridges and clay-lined ponds in vleis – are now adopted by tens of thousands of dryland farmers, so too can other innovations not yet recognised contribute nationally and beyond to the advancement of agro-ecological approaches to sustainable food systems.

Increasing recognition for local innovation and the creative capacity of food producers to solve deep problems and find new opportunities can help advance a partnership approach to agricultural development in which all knowledge is valued. This has a huge potential to sustain with dignity the central place of women and men who meet the food needs of their communities and the country.

The Phiri Award is a new programme, whose trustees are drawn from leading Zimbabwean institutions. The Trust is chaired by Professor Mandivamba Rukuni. Working with national networks, local government and grassroots groups, the Trust gathers nominations from across the country; coordinates visits to selected farmers and others during their growing and harvesting season; documents their innovations; and organises the annual Award ceremony.

As with Mr Phiri, the award winning innovators will have relied on their own resources and energies to develop their practices, and will often have struggled for many years to gain recognition for their work. They will come from small-scale farming communities or marginalised backgrounds in urban settings. From creativity in the face of hardship, they will have developed proven new approaches that others have now begun to adopt and adapt.

So if you are anywhere near Harare (the venue is 15 mins from town by car) on October 24th, come and meet the 2014 award winners, and of course Mr Phiri himself, along with the Trustees and many others. Just let the organisers know (email below).

Thanks to John Wilson (secretary and acting coordinator of the Trust) and Ken Wilson (trustee) for this information (and most of text for the blog!). To contact the Phiri Award and register your attendance at the launch, please email:

This post was written by Ian Scoones and originally appeared on Zimbabweland




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5 responses to “Recognising farmer innovation: the launch of the Phiri award

  1. Pingback: Recognising farmer innovation: the launch of the Phiri award | Zimbo News

  2. Pingback: And the winners are… The Phiri Award Innovators of 2014 | Zimbo News

  3. William Doctor

    So white Africans are excluded from competing?

  4. Buhle Francis

    very inspiring!

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