'Ignorance costing farmers'

HARARE - The lack of rain gauges is affecting efforts to disseminate weather information to different sectors as rainfall patterns have high variability and cannot be put in the same bracket, weather experts say.

Speaking at the presentation of a rainfall seasonal update meeting, Terrence Mushore, the acting deputy director operations at the Meteorological Services Department (MSD), said farmers must strive to procure personal rain gauges to aid on seasonal predictions.

“We used to have 2 000 gauges nationally, but we now have about 300 active ones. The Food and Agricultural Organisation donated an additional 75, but they did not have measuring cylinders. We have since organised tenders for the measuring cylinders,” Mushore said.

He said uncertified rain gauges cost at least $10 at local farm equipment shops, and the only reason farmers do not have them is because they are ignorant of the importance of the devices.

“It would be ideal to have a rain gauge at individual farms as the variability disparities are very steep, areas can never measure the same amount of rainfall if they are not in the same location,” he said.

“This leads to generalisation in the outlooks presented and farmers end up crying foul, but these forecasts are also sector specific,” he said.

The MSD in its seasonal update findings said the nation should expect normal to above normal rainfall in all areas.

“This forecast does not necessarily translate to a bumper harvest, as normal conditions vary from one place to the other,” said Juliet Gwenzi, who was one of the panellists.

There were marked differences between the current update and the National Climate Outlook Forum (NARCOF) update presented last year predicting low rainfall for region three, which is receiving normal to above normal rains.

Data collection methods by the nation’s weather department also came under fire from independent experts at the review presentation of the station data who said the collection method is not the most accurate.

“South Africa uses the remote sense data methods whereby they base their findings in satellite images.

“Not only is this method more accurate, but it also produces a detailed analysis on the area being in question,” said Barnabas Chimupindu, a local agro meteorologist.

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