Too early to talk about drought

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THERE is still hope for a good maize harvest for the 2014/2015 summer farming season despite erratic rainfall patterns experienced in most parts of the country that has threatened the survival of crops, agricultural experts have said.
The country has set a target of two million tonnes of maize for the season.
However, the inconsistent rainfall has presented a nightmare on the growth of crops whose survival is based on adequate water supply.
The rains came tlate and when they finally fell, they were heavy.
As a result, there was serious flooding and leaching, pushing the nation to the brink of a possible poor summer cropping season.
Record rain fell in many parts of the country with Guruve breaking a 90-year-old record after receiving 145 millimetres of rain in one day, surpassing the 1924 record of 90 millimetres.
Suddenly, the rains stopped resulting in prolonged dry spells, a situation that heightened farmers’ anxiety on the state of crops.
Other sectors of the economy, especially those that want to cause artificial food shortages in the country to further the regime change agenda by discrediting economic progress in the country, have already started spreading misleading statements that Zimbabwe will experience drought, causing panic.
In an interview with The Patriot Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president Wonder Chabikwa said it was premature to consider a crop failure in the country.
He said most of the crops countrywide have the potential of healthy growth as they have not reached the stage of permanent wilting.
“As much as the country experienced prolonged dry spells, it is still early to predict a crop failure in the country,” he said.
“A crop can only be deemed failure if it reaches the stage of permanent wilting, but our assessment has proved that most of the crops countrywide are healthy.
“If the rains that fell in the country over the past weeks persist even in dry areas, the crops will germinate well and achieve the expected yield.”
Much of the northern parts of the country received excess rainfall that flooded the fields, whereas the southern parts of the country experienced prolonged dry spells that constrained water supply to the crops.
Zimbabwe Farmers Union executive director Paul Zakariya said farmers in the northern region who experienced flooding could safeguard survival of their crops from leaching by applying more fertilisers.
He said in the southern region where there was prolonged dry spells, farmers could not face poor yields as most of their crops were small grains that are drought-resistant and could survive the dry conditions.
“Even though the process might increase production cost, farmers should apply more fertilisers to avoid leaching and ensure survival of crops in flooding areas,” said Zakariya.
“There is still hope for a good yield, areas such as Masvingo and Chipinge that we were much worried about have since started receiving rains.”
“There was only temporary wilting of crops and our hope for good growth now hinges on the rainfall which we believe has a good distribution pattern.”
According to a survey carried out by The Patriot this week in different parts of the country, most provinces have started receiving rainfall and most of their crops were recovering well and have reached the maturity stage.
An A1 farmer in Mashonaland East in Goromonzi, Romeo Damba said the crops did not receive the expected rainfall, but have managed to grow well.
Damba said he managed to plant with the early rains in November, a situation that enabled his crops to have adequate water during the early stages of germination.
“Due to shortage of inputs, I have only managed to plant four hectares of maize, but this did not affect my quality of yield and I am still expecting my initial target of five tonnes per hectare,” he said.
“At the moment most of the crops have reached maturity stage that ensures me of a good harvest.”
Another farmer in the area, Charity Benhura said her crops were healthy despite late rains.
She said her plants experienced poor water supply due to a dry spell in December and January this year but has since gained strength due to rainfall that was received in the country last week.
“Due to non payment for my maize deliveries by the Grain Marketing Board last year I have reduced my hectarage from five to one-and-half this year,” he said.
“But I am optimistic that I will be able to harvest my target yield because my crops have been growing normally despite erratic rainfall.”
“Even though we experienced a prolonged dry spell in our area, most of my crops were not affected.”
A renowned farmer in Mashonaland Central in Shamva, Sirewu Chipadze who has cultivated 27 hectares of maize said the area has been receiving normal rainfall and the crops are growing well.
“Not withstanding the shortage of inputs, the province is experiencing a favourable distribution of rainfall and our crops have been receiving adequate rain,” he said.
“The whole crop is now mature and we are expecting about five tonnes yield per hectare.”
Cephas Mutori from Chesa who has 50 hectares of maize said he was expecting a bumper harvest from his crops as they were not affected by erratic rains.
“The only threat that faced our crops was army worms, but the situation has since been contained,” he said.
“The season is progressing well and my crops are promising a good yield.”
The country has not been left out from the effects of climate change, thus according to the Zimbabwe National Climate Change Response Strategy, the country is experiencing more hot and fewer cold days than before as a result of climate change and variability which has effectively warmed the country’s temperature by about 0,4 degrees Celcius from 1900 to 2000.
The timing and amount of rainfall received are becoming increasingly uncertain.
The last 30 years have shown a trend towards reduced rainfall or heavy rainfall and drought occurring back to back in the same season.
The frequency and length of dry spells during the rainy season have increased while the frequency of rain days has declined.
Some of the major adverse impacts of climate change include declining water resources and reduced agricultural productivity.
Therefore, in light of this, pundits believe that the country should look beyond reliance on rainfall and promote irrigation to ensure sustainable agriculture.

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