Brace for El Nino: Farmers unions

HARARE - Farmers’ unions have called on stakeholders in the agricultural sector to brace for the El Nino phenomenon which is set to affect the 2018/19 cropping season.

Paul Zakaria, the executive director of the Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union (ZFU), told the Daily News yesterday that the country’s strategic grain reserves (SGR) may not take it to the 2019/20 harvest if the predicted El Nino goes to the extreme.

“It is fortunate that for the past two seasons our grain production improved drastically and deliveries to the Grain Marketing Board improved meaning to say we have something in our SGR.

“However, if the El Nino phenomenon goes to the extreme the strategic grain reserves may not take us to the next harvest,” he said, adding that alternative plans should be put in place to cover the deficit position.

Zimbabwe has an annual cereal requirement for human and livestock consumption estimated at 2,1 million metric tonnes.

A 2018/19 seasonal rainfall forecast presented by government recently shows that Zimbabwe could receive normal rains with a bias towards below normal rains throughout the season.

Zakaria said it was now critical to pool together resources to support short to medium term response strategies announced by government.

He urged stakeholders to promote Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) which aims at ensuring that we have resilient production systems and sustainably increase production and productivity.

“In the face of El Nino, the following can save the populace: Promoting drought tolerant and early maturing maize varieties for farmers without irrigation facilities and promoting small grains in drought prone areas such as the southern parts of the country.

“Diversifying crop production systems and incorporating crops like sugar bean, bambara nuts, cow peas, groundnuts, sweet potatoes, promoting conservation agriculture and establishment of contour ridges to conserve moisture, deepen, rehabilitate and drill homestead boreholes, wells and reservoirs to ensure availability of water, where possible rehabilitate and construct our dams and irrigation systems, prepare for livestock supplementary feeding,’’ he said.

Commercial Farmers’ Union president Ben Purcell Gilpin said with proper preparation, and utilisation of water bodies in the country — farmers could come to the country’s aid by producing enough.

“However, there is need for government and social partners to form CSA alliances that will push and implement the governments’ commitments and declarations which have time-bound related processes.

“This will enable the development of resilient food production systems which will make Zimbabwe, weather-smart, water-smart, carbon nutrient-smart, institutional, market-smart aiming whilst aiming towards making Zimbabwe a middle income country by 2030,” he said.

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