Good sea­sonal rains ex­pected coun­try­wide

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Feature - Fea­ture Sife­lani Tsiko

ZIM­BABWE is ex­pected to re­ceive good rains in the 2016-2017 crop­ping sea­son and cli­mate ex­perts are urg­ing farm­ers to plant early to en­sure that they get a mean­ing­ful har­vest. Me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal Ser­vices Depart­ment prin­ci­pal me­te­o­rol­o­gist Ms Vim­bai Mamombe re­vealed this when she is­sued out the na­tional fore­cast.

She said the ap­proach­ing rainy sea­son, which starts in Oc­to­ber, would be nor­mal to wet­ter than nor­mal in Zim­babwe bring­ing re­lief to the coun­try which has been crav­ing for some good rain­fall ac­tiv­ity af­ter it was rav­aged by one of the worst droughts in decades.

“There is a high like­li­hood of an early start of the sea­son for the whole coun­try, with sig­nif­i­cant rains as early as late Septem­ber 2016 in the south­ern ar­eas of Zim­babwe,” Ms Mamombe said.

“In­puts, in­clud­ing small grains should be dis­trib­uted to all re­gions by the end of Septem­ber 2016 in Mata­bele­land South, Masvingo, Mid­lands and south­ern dis­tricts of Man­i­ca­land and by the end of Oc­to­ber for the rest of the coun­try.

“In view of the mois­ture avail­abil­ity and suit­able tem­per­a­ture thresh­olds, those with water should not wait for the main rains to fall. They can plant any time now.”

In the first half of the sea­son (Oc­to­berDe­cem­ber 2016) Re­gion 1 which cov­ers Harare, much of Mashona­land East, Mashona­land West, Mashona­land Cen­tral, north-east­ern parts of Mid­lands , parts of Man­i­ca­land and Re­gion 2 which in­cludes the bulk of Mata­bele­land North, parts of Mid­lands and parts of Mashona­land West are likely to re­ceive nor­mal to above nor­mal rain­fall.

In the same pe­riod, the most rain deficit pocket of the coun­try — Re­gion 5 which cov­ers Masvingo, the bulk of Mid­lands, the ex­treme south­ern parts of Man­i­ca­land and the bulk of Mata­bele­land South — is also ex­pected to get nor­mal to above nor­mal rain­fall.

The Met Depart­ment also fore­cast that in the Novem­ber-De­cem­ber and Jan­uary 2017 pe­riod, Re­gion 1 and 2 are ex­pected to con­tinue re­ceiv­ing nor­mal to below nor­mal rain­fall while the drought­prone Re­gion 5 will get an ex­tended bonus of nor­mal to above nor­mal rain­fall.

In the Jan­uary-Fe­bru­ary 2017 pe­riod, Re­gion 1 and 3 will get nor­mal to above nor­mal rain­fall while Mata­bele­land North, north-west Mata­bele­land South and Bu­l­awayo will re­ceive nor­mal to below nor­mal rains.

The Met Depart­ment said on av­er­age Re­gion 1 and 2 will re­ceive nor­mal to above nor­mal rains while Re­gion 3 is ex­pected to get nor­mal to below nor­mal rains in the se­cond half of the crop­ping sea­son, which nor­mally runs from Jan­uary to March.

Nor­mal to above nor­mal sim­ply refers to rains that are nor­mal to wet­ter than nor­mal.

Ms Mamombe said that even though the fore­cast is good news for the drought-stricken coun­try, it still re­mains crit­i­cal for the coun­try to de­velop its dam and ir­ri­ga­tion in­fra­struc­ture given the risk of per­sis­tent droughts and food in­se­cu­rity in some pock­ets of the coun­try.

“De­spite the high chances of higher than usual rains this sea­son, in terms of na­tional strate­gic plan­ning and de­vel­op­ment, Zim­babwe should al­ways ex­pect, and plan for, one form of drought or an­other,” she said.

“It is now ex­tremely rare for the whole coun­try to ex­pe­ri­ence the same weather con­di­tions.

“There is need to con­tinue with water har­vest­ing pro­grammes al­ready un­der­way, es­pe­cially those in agro-eco­log­i­cal zones IV and V.

“We should keep in mind that there are in­di­ca­tions of de­te­ri­o­ra­tion in the rain­fall amounts as the sea­son pro­gresses.”

Ms Mamombe said the poli­cies of small dam con­struc­tion and bore­hole drilling or deep­en­ing, con­ser­va­tion and pro­tec­tion of wet­lands should con­tinue es­pe­cially in the drought-prone south­ern part of the coun­try.

She said the ap­pli­ca­tion of fer­tilis­ers should be guided by the 10-day weather fore­casts as well as ad­vice from agri­cul­tural ex­ten­sion ser­vices.

The 10-day weather fore­casts will be is­sued from Oc­to­ber un­til April 2017.

“In­cen­tives for maize pro­duc­tion in sup­port for Com­mand Agri­cul­ture should be an­nounced as soon as pos­si­ble, rather than wait un­til the mid­dle of the sea­son,” the cli­mate ex­pert said.

“Mind­ful that many com­mu­nal farm­ers lost cat­tle (hence sti­fling an­i­mal-drawn plough­ing ca­pa­bil­ity) dur­ing the re­cently ended drought, there is need to al­lo­cate some trac­tors and as­so­ci­ated im­ple­ments to them.

“Af­ter all, the bulk of the crop that goes to the GMB comes from small scale farm­ers.”

Zim­babwe’s na­tional fore­cast dove­tails with the 20th South­ern Africa Re­gional Cli­mate Out­look Fo­rum (Sarcof) re­gional fore­cast which pre­dicted that from Oc­to­ber 2016 to March 2017, Sadc coun­tries are likely to re­ceive nor­mal to abovenor­mal rain­fall bring­ing re­lief to this re­gion which re­lies heav­ily on rain-fed agri­cul­ture.

The bulk of Sadc is likely to re­ceive nor­mal to above-nor­mal rain­fall for most of the pe­riod Oc­to­ber to De­cem­ber ( OND) 2016 and the Jan­uary to March (JFM) 2017 while north­ern­most Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo (DRC) north­ern An­gola, south­ern­most of Tan­za­nia, north­ern Mozam­bique, the is­lands states of Sey­chelles and east­ern-most Mada­gas­car are more likely to re­ceive nor­mal to below-nor­mal rain­fall most of the sea­son.

Sadc mem­ber States have de­clared this year’s El-Nino-in­duced drought a re­gional dis­as­ter, paving the way for donor agen­cies to as­sist in mo­bil­is­ing $2,8 bil­lion re­quired for food aid for mil­lions of peo­ple fac­ing hunger.

The drought has left up to 40 mil­lion peo­ple in need of food as­sis­tance across the re­gion, ac­cord­ing to the UN Food and Agri­cul­ture Or­gan­i­sa­tion.

Out of this, 23 mil­lion re­quire im­me­di­ate as­sis­tance.

Zim­babwe is one of the worst af­fected coun­tries by the dri­est year in decades fac­ing south­ern Africa — in­clud­ing Malawi, Zam­bia, Le­sotho, Swazi­land and South Africa.

The UN’s World Food Pro­gramme said about 16 mil­lion peo­ple in South­ern Africa are fac­ing hunger due to poor har­vests in 2015, caused by El Nino weather con­di­tions.

The im­pact of the drought that swept across the Sadc re­gion in the past two years has been felt across all sec­tors in­clud­ing agri­cul­ture, food and nu­tri­tion se­cu­rity, tourism, en­ergy, health, water and san­i­ta­tion and ed­u­ca­tion.

A ma­jor­ity of small-scale farm­ers are strug­gling to pro­duce enough to feed their fam­i­lies ow­ing to the drought that rav­aged most parts of Zim­babwe.

Dam levels have dropped to their worst levels in decades while pas­ture and water scarcity has dec­i­mated 643 000 live­stock with an es­ti­mated value of up to $1,9 bil­lion.

Cli­mate ex­perts say the 2016-2017 rain sea­son is likely to shift from the dreaded warmer-thanaver­age weather pat­tern — El Niño — which caused a dev­as­tat­ing drought in the en­tire sub-re­gion, to La Nina char­ac­terised by bet­ter rain­fall and cli­mate con­di­tions.

The lat­est fore­cast is likely to bring wide­spread cheer in Zim­babwe and the rest of the re­gion which is reel­ing un­der a drought that swept across the en­tire sub-con­ti­nent.

Agri­cul­tural Tech­ni­cal and Ex­ten­sion Ser­vices (Agri­tex) se­nior of­fi­cial, Mr Hil­lary Mugiyo, urged the Met Depart­ment to is­sue and widely dis­sem­i­nate monthly and 10-day fore­casts to im­prove plan­ning of farm ac­tiv­i­ties.

“The three monthly fore­casts are too gen­eral and don’t show distri­bu­tion or likely on-set, they need to ex­plain the fore­cast for the ben­e­fit of the lay­men.

‘‘Terms such as ‘Nor­mal, Above Nor­mal, Below Nor­mal’ need to be sim­pli­fied,” he said.

“For the prac­ti­cal plan­ning of lo­cal is­sues such as water re­sources, prob­a­bil­ity of dry spells, the coun­try re­quires in­for­ma­tion on a more lo­cal scale.

“Farm­ers need more re­fined cli­matic in­for­ma­tion to im­prove pro­duc­tion.”

How­ever, some de­vel­op­ment ex­perts fear La Nina may turn cheer into mis­ery for Zim­babwe and other Sadc coun­tries.

Mr David Phiri, FAO sub-re­gional co­or­di­na­tor for South­ern Africa, said the evolv­ing cli­mate pat­terns char­ac­terised by cyclic droughts, floods and cy­clones have be­come more fre­quent in south­ern Africa.

“The scale and com­plex­i­ties of these haz­ards re­quires that we im­prove on our early warn­ing sys­tems so that these haz­ards do not re­sult in dis­as­ters.”

Other de­vel­op­ment ex­perts have warned Zim­babwe and its neigh­bours to brace for floods that may lead to an­other year of food short­ages as the re­gion is ex­pected to re­ceive nor­mal to above nor­mal rains.

They fear that wet­ter con­di­tions may trig­ger floods that may dam­age crops, in­fra­struc­ture and spark crop and live­stock dis­eases that may se­ri­ously erode agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion. — Zim­pa­pers Syn­di­ca­tion Ser­vices

Mr David Phiri, FAO sub-re­gional co­or­di­na­tor for South­ern Africa

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