El Nino devastates farmers

HARARE - While for many Zimbabweans the approach of the holiday season is a time of celebration, for Zimbabwean farmers it is the preferable time for planting a successful summer crop.

Now, as the festive season draws to its peak, farmers continue to delay planting and wait for the rains which have delayed.

“We planted a small section of maize because we were not sure about the rains,” said Eunice Banda, a 56-year-old peasant farmer who ekes out a living just outside Harare’s Hatcliffe suburb.

“But it’s drying up because there’s been no rain.”

Zimbabwe’s rainfall season normally starts in October in the southern and western areas and in November in the northern provinces.

A snap survey done by the Daily News on Sunday revealed that most farmers in Zimbabwe’s maize-growing provinces such as Mashonaland East, West, Central and Manicaland are losing hope of getting a good harvest this agricultural season due to the current dry spell.

Farmers who planted maize in November complained that their crops are now wilting due to the scotching heat, dashing all hopes of having a reasonable harvest in the 2015-2016 agricultural season.

Climate change experts say the country’s key agriculture sector will be hit by the dry weather conditions the region will suffer this season due to the El Nino effects being experienced in the southern African region.

Historically, El Nino raises chances of receiving below-average rainfall during the main crop-growing season in southern Africa and the current heat wave being experienced in Zimbabwe clearly spells disaster for the country’s agricultural season.

Agriculture is important for Zimbabwe as most families depend on the sector for their income and could therefore be left in need of food aid, a further strain to stretched government coffers.

Already, it is estimated that at least 1,5 million people are facing hunger following a poor harvest this year that was down 50 percent on last year, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation.

Agriculture experts say government must prepare for the worst and introduce irrigation schemes in many parts of the country in an effort to avert drought and revive agriculture — a mainstay of Zimbabwe’s economy.

Official government figures show that the sector contributes about 60 percent to manufacturing, and also consumes almost 40 percent of the industrial output.

The importance of the sector also lies in its contribution to export earnings of around 30 percent, 60-70 percent of employment, and about 19 percent of gross domestic product, that way providing a major source of livelihood for over 70 percent of the country’s population.

In his 2016 National Budget statement, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa said in light of the predicted short rainfall season — expected to start from December up to early March — farmers must adopt moisture conservation farming practices to “extend the growing season”.

“This would benefit particularly farmers with limited access to irrigation, including those producing under the planned 1,6 million hectares of land targeted for maize, and about 250 000 hectares for small grains,” he said.

Chinamasa set aside half a million dollars earmarked for cloud seeding, with $200 000 having already been disbursed in support of a fairly wider programme.

Meanwhile, the Meteorological Services Department is advising farmers to plant small grains, drought-resistant crops and short season varieties to mitigate the effects of drought. 

Comments (2)

This is part of the price to be paid for stealing other peoples property without any compensation. Have the deadbeat farming community called in their Sangomas.

Arthur Tutisani - 13 December 2015

El Nino is a buzz word in Zimbabwe, similar to “illegal sanctions” The typical Zimbabwean “intellectual” does not even understand it or what it is !

alum - 14 December 2015

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