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Farmers feel the heat as rainfall delays

Zimbabwe is staring at the possibility of a drought as the second half of the rainfall season has been appallingly dry, raising fears of crop failure and food shortages.

The forecast from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Climate Services Centre indicates that the southern half of the country will likely receive below-normal rains from January through March 2015.

Food crops in most parts of the country have failed despite the abundant rainfall that hit the country during the October to December seasonal rainfall. Declining yields on crops could hurt the public by raising food and commodity prices to staggering proportions.

Farmers who spoke to 263Chat are hopelessly worrying and are afraid that any further rainfall delays will see their crops failing to produce the desired output.

“The quantity we are expecting to yield is evidently lower compared to the last farming season. It is not what we expected as the season started off with high rains.

“We had a lot of rainfall in a short space of time which limits the uptake of nutrients by plants,” said Alice Saidi a farmer who hails from Nembudziya in Gokwe.

IMG-20150302-WA0017-1024x576This heart wrenching situation is not only limited to Gokwe as areas like Chirumhanzu, Mberengwa, Gutu, Masvingo and the greater part of Matabeleland also face the same quandary.

A tour in Chirumanzu Zibagwe by the 263Chat team has shown that the country is likely to have shortages of maize as maize crops have been extensively damaged by intense heat. It is also crystal clear that some of the crops would not even recover even if rain is to come now.

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Speaking to 263Chat, Nhamo Machaya said that most of the crops have been heavily affected by excessive heat that hit the area during the second half of the season.

“As you can see about half of my maize crops have failed. This is because our land needs a lot of rainfall and given the amount of rainfall we have had so far, we are heading for a disaster.

“We are looking forward for some more rainfall so that it will rescue the plants we planted late. These young crops are the only hope left, and they also need rainfall to survive the intense heat,” he said.

Simbarashe Masoka, who farms in the Bindura area, says his crops are still fine as he irrigates but he however revealed that the situation is bad for all those who do not have the capacity to irrigate.

“My crops are still fine because I’m able to provide additional water through irrigation but we still need some more rainfall as irrigating is expensive. The situation is however different to those who do not irrigate. Farmers now need water so that the remaining crops can survive,” said Masoka.

A report by Famine Early Warning System Network titled Zimbabwe: Food Security Outlook – January to June 2015 reveals that crop production is likely to be affected by the late start of the season, flooding, and dry spells.

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“The season started nearly three weeks late, and this was followed by abnormal dryness in the northern parts of the country. By December, heavy rainfall in the north resulted in localized flooding, damaging crops, and food stocks for some households,” reads the report.

According to UN estimates, about 500 of the 1,200 households were impacted by the flooding and are in urgent need of assistance.

Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa was also quoted in the Sunday News of 1 March 2015 admitting that most crops in the southern part of the country had been greatly affected by the dry spell experienced in the past few weeks.

“According to reports that we are receiving, most areas in the southern region are likely to have poor harvests if we do not receive rains in the next few weeks. The condition of the crops in those areas indicates that poor harvests are looming. We hope that we are going to receive adequate rains,” he said.

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Journalist based in Harare

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