Recognising farmer innovation: the Phiri Award in Zimbabwe

In October 2014, the first Phiri Awards for Farm and Food Innovators were made to farmers in Zimbabwe. The award is named for Zephaniah Phiri, a renowned water-harvester and ecological farmer in Zvishavane District. In the words of Ian Scoones, who worked with him for several years, his innovations in wetland farming over 50 years earned him first arrest and then national and international recognition. The Phiri Award opens up a new chapter in advancing endogenous innovation in Zimbabwe.

In the booklet announcing the five innovators shortlisted for the prize this year, Phiri Award Trustee John Wilson explains: “The Phiri Award Trust believes that it’s crucial that we learn from farmer innovators and other innovators in the food chain as we strive to find sustainable and healthy ways of producing and processing food.” Posters about their innovations were put on display. The top award went to the farmer innovator Bouwas Mawara. The launching of this award obviously brought great joy and pride to its patron Zephaniah Phiri and his wife at the ceremony, where also the four runners-up were recognised.

In his blog about the award, Ian Scoones from the Institute of Development Studies, writes: “All five illustrate the persistence and determination so typical of innovators.” All nominees this year were (older) men. Ian therefore adds: “The Trust is committed to changing this next year. Nominations from around the country, and particularly of women and younger farmers or those involved in the food chain are welcomed.”