Rains buoy farm­ers’ hope

The Manica Post - - Local News - Sa­muel Kadun­gure Se­nior Farm­ing Re­porter

RAINS re­ceived this week have rekin­dled hope among farm­ers af­ter re­ju­ve­nat­ing crops which had been left mis­er­able and wilt­ing due to mois­ture stress fol­low­ing weeks of in­tense dry­ness in Man­i­ca­land.

The province re­ceived de­fi­cient or scanty rains be­tween Oc­to­ber and De­cem­ber 2017, which were fol­lowed by weeks of in­tense dry­ness, which left both the dry-land to­bacco and sta­ple maize look­ing mis­er­able and wilt­ing in the scorch­ing heat that lately brazenly blighted the province.

This left farm­ers yearn­ing for rains to avoid huge loses and food in­se­cu­rity, and this week the prayers were an­swered for those in the lee­ward as the heav­ens proved gen­er­ous and re­leased mod­er­ate show­ers on Mon­day.

How­ever, some com­mu­nal set­tle­ments in re­gions four and five were still to re­ceive rains.

Rain­fall is the ma­jor de­ter­mi­nant of a suc­cess­ful agri­cul­tural sea­son in Zim­babwe, and once the heav­ens are gen­er­ous, ev­ery­thing else fall into place.

The Zim­babwe Farm­ers’ Union (ZFU) ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor Mr Paul Zakaria said ev­ery drop is des­per­ately needed as the coun­try can­not af­ford to slide back, but in­stead build on the suc­cesses of the 2016-17 sea­son.

“Given the in­tense dry­ness of the past weeks, any mea­sure of rain is wel­come. Ev­ery drop is des­per­ately needed,” said Mr Zakaria.

Mr Zakaria said the tru­ant rains, cou­pled with high tem­per­a­tures be­ing ex­pe­ri­enced this sea­son point to sig­nif­i­cantly re­duced yield, es­pe­cially in rain-shadow re­gions three, four and five.

He said the lean pe­riod has also neg­a­tively af­fected the wa­ter lev­els of most farm dams and ma­jor rivers, putting even the ir­ri­gated crop at risk.

“The sea­son was char­ac­terised by late and er­ratic rains, which is not a good agri­cul­tural in­di­ca­tion as it speaks to a re­duced yield,” said Mr Zakaria.

Mr Zakaria said at this junc­ture that the Me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal Ser­vices Depart­ment (MSD) should play a key role of ad­vis­ing farm­ers on weather con­di­tions and how they should re­spond to such chal­lenges.

He said this is the only way farm­ers can make in­formed de­ci­sions.

The MSD had pre­dicted nor­mal to above nor­mal rains, rais­ing hopes among farm­ers that with favourable rain­fall, then, a bumper har­vest was in the off­ing.

“It is tricky to say farm­ers should con­tinue plant­ing or not, but what they should re­mem­ber is that the rainy sea­son is just a win­dow which can­not be ex­tended. Plant­ing pe­riod is mid-Oc­to­ber to De­cem­ber, and any­thing out­side that speaks to re­duced yield.

“This is the crit­i­cal time that the MSD should in­ter­vene and play key ad­vi­sory role so that farm­ers can make in­formed de­ci­sion based on sci­en­tific ad­vice. Our weather ex­perts should give farm­ers de­tailed up­dates so that they plan ac­cord­ingly, and pre­serve re­sources at their dis­posal. Farm­ers need to know if the rains are com­ing or not and when ex­actly it will rain,” said Mr Zakaria.

Act­ing Pro­vin­cial Agri­tex Of­fi­cer Man­i­ca­land Mrs Phillipa Rwambiwa said pock­ets of Man­i­ca­land that tra­di­tion­ally re­ceive early rains and oc­ca­sion­ally record bumper har­vests have a good crop.

“We re­ceived some light rains in re­gions one, two and three, but in re­gions four and five the crop is stressed due to in­creas­ing lack of mois­ture. It this dry spell per­sists, the crop will suf­fer be­cause the farm­ers have no means to ir­ri­gate. The crop can still be re­sus­ci­tated if the stressed ar­eas re­ceive rains be­tween now and next week. The de­lay in both fre­quency and sever­ity of rains has also af­fected the planted area. Tra­di­tion­ally plant­ing winds-up in the sec­ond week of Jan­uary, but we still have many farm­ers who re­cently re­ceived in­puts, but could not plant be­cause it is dry,” said Mrs Rwambiwa.

Mrs Rwambiwa, who could not di­vulge statis­tics on the planted hec­tarage so far and af­fected planted area cit­ing re­stric­tive pro­to­col, said for the past two weeks maize in drier re­gions of the province looked mis­er­able due to the scorch­ing heat, rais­ing strong fears that the ce­real may not reach ma­tu­rity.

Cases in point are Buhera, Makoni South, Lower parts of Chipinge, Chi­man­i­mani, Makoni North, Marange area, Nyanga North and parts of Mu­tasa which lie in the rain shadow, and are syn­ony­mous for small grains and cot­ton given their abil­ity to en­dure ex­treme weather con­di­tions.

In these re­gions huge tracts of land were also left un-tilled as the rains re­ceived were very low, highly vari­able and un­suit­able for crop plant­ing and pro­duc­tion.

The in­con­sis­tent rains and heat wave are also cou­pled by the dev­as­tat­ing fall army­worm that is wreck­ing havoc in maize fields and green pas­tures, putting the province at risk of fail­ing to meet food re­quire­ments for its grow­ing pop­u­la­tion and live­stock.

Last sea­son Man­i­ca­land re­ceived evenly dis­trib­uted rains from the sec­ond week of Novem­ber 2016 into late Fe­bru­ary 2017 nur­tur­ing a lush new growth of pas­ture grasses, re­filled long-dried rivers, in­land dams, cat­tle ponds and crops, es­pe­cially the sta­ple maize and small grains.

Mr Zakaria

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