Are we ready for farming season?

HARARE - How time flies! Only around this time last year, Zimbabweans were not so sure what the heavens had in store for them after going through consecutive drought periods the previous years that left millions in need of food aid.

Just as well, the heavens opened during the 2016/17 farming season, resulting in the country achieving a bumper harvest for the first time in as many years, with an enthused President Robert Mugabe suggesting that his government should even consider exporting the excess harvest in order to shore up the country’s foreign currency position.

It is imperative therefore for the nation not to lose the momentum achieved in the previous agricultural season and relapse into the horrors of year 2000 to 2016 when chaotic planning combined with extreme weather conditions to rob Zimbabweans of staple food on their tables. This forced a foreign currency starved nation to resort to expensive maize imports, thus draining the little hard currency the local banks had in their nostro accounts.

Once again, government, banks, seed houses, farmers, fertilisers and chemical manufacturers must get their act together to ensure the nation is not found wanting when the 2017/18 agricultural season gets underway next month.

Government, through the Meteorological Services Department (Met Department), which falls under the ministry of Environment and Climate, has predicted a late start to the rainy season in which flash floods and cyclones are likely as the season progresses.

It is thus being recommended that those with irrigation facilities must not wait for the rains to fall. With the irrigation infrastructure that we have in place, Zimbabweans should never go hungry if that resource is put to good use.

On its part, government must put in place measures for early cloud seeding in light of the expected slow start to the season, particularly in regions two and three.

It is, however, encouraging that in spite of the challenges in accessing foreign currency from the banks, suppliers of inputs seem to be on top of the situation, hence it is now up to the banks to release funding towards on time to support agriculture, which is the mainstay of Zimbabwe’s economy.

More importantly, farmers should be dirtying their hands on the fields in order to achieve good yields, keep the nation well-fed, and ensure that the Grain Marketing Board’s silos have adequate stocks in their strategic reserves in case of a rainy day.

Last but not least, the Met Department must be applauded for committing to keep the nation updated on a monthly basis, beginning next month.

This will be on top of the daily weather forecasts issued in the print and electronic media and 10-day weather bulletins that will take into account any changes.

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