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Rainy season comes to an end

by Staff reporter
16 Mar 2020 at 05:50hrs | Views
THE rainy season is ending with the Meteorological Services Department (MSD) saying Matabeleland region is unlikely to receive significant rains anymore.

The MSD made the declaration as most crops are a write-off in the area.  In both Matabeleland South and Matabeleland North, farmers are counting their losses.

For Bulawayo, the end of the rainy season may compound the city's water shortage as its  supply dams are located in drier Matabeleland South. Bulawayo City Council is currently implementing a 96-hour water shedding programme.

In an interview, MSD head of forecasting Mr James Ngoma said:

"We are now towards the end of the rainy season. It will end differently in different areas. In the southern parts of the country it normally ends on 16 March while on the extreme northern parts it ends mid-April.  Matabeleland South has been dry almost the whole season. Rains expected will be too insignificant in Bulilima and Mangwe areas. In Matabeleland North areas like Victoria Falls are receiving showers which are below 5mm."

Matabeleland South Provincial Agritex Officer Mrs Simangaliso Ngwabi said the province has been hit by a serious drought and the crop situation is critical.

"Crops have not matured to harvest. Early planted crops are now a write-off. Few farmers have their crops just above the knee but the crops are showing signs of moisture stress. If rains don't come in a week the crops will all wilt. They need the rains," she said.

Mrs Ngwabi said in Insiza and Umzingwane districts, a few farmers harvested maize for family consumption.

She said farmers who had planted drought resistant crops are also affected.

Mrs Ngwabi said farmers who relied on irrigation managed to harvest some maize.

"In areas like Beitbridge they had planted small grains but the crops are also failing," she said.

 "Last week, I was at Mankonkoni Irrigation near Thuli River in Gwanda, they have a good maize crop. They are about 30 members who are self-sufficient and they were also selling the surplus to the community."

Matabeleland North Provincial Agritex Officer Mr Dumisani Nyoni said while some farmers are harvesting, others have crops that still need rains.

"Farmers who planted in November are now harvesting in areas like Lusulu, Hwange and Tsholotsho. However, those who planted in January are yet to harvest. The crops are still in need of the rains for them to reach maturity," he said.

He also said farmers should now implement moisture conservation methods such as mulching in order to produce better yields.

Chief Bango of Mangwe in Matabeleland South province said under his area most people did not plant any crops during this farming season due to draught power challenges and delayed rains. He said this year's drought situation was likely to be worse than the previous ones.

"This year we are going to face a drought which is more serious that the one we experienced last year. Most people in my area didn't plant any crops this farming season mainly because they didn't have draught power. Many people lost their animals due to the drought that was experienced during the previous farming season," he said.

"Other villagers didn't plant because of delayed rains. Some people planted in November but their crops wilted. However, there are some people who planted their crops in January and we are hopeful that they will be able to harvest but it's only a few people. There is serious need for intervention from Government and other partners as the situation is bad."

Chief Bango said pastures remain a challenge for livestock but water was now available as dams had received significant amounts of water.

Chief Mathema from Gwanda in the same province said the crop situation was also bad in his area. He said there was need for communities to be educated on climate change so they could adopt suitable farming methods.

Chief Mathema said the price of maize seed was also beyond the reach of many people making it difficult for them to plough their fields. He said the inputs under Presidential Input Scheme were unable to cater for all farmers.

"Some people started planting in November and then the rains disappeared. In January we received more rains but people were not sure whether they would last and only a few planted crops and only realised that the rains would persist in beginning March. As a result, very few people will harvest," he said. "One of the challenges is that people are not well informed when it comes to the weather report. People have to be educated on climate change so that they adopt new farming patterns and grow drought resistant crops."

Chief Masendu from Bulilima, Matabeleland South said most people in his area lost their crops as they planted in November and the rains later disappeared. He said when the rains later came in January most people had lost hope and did not plant again. Chief Masendu said only a few people who planted small grains were going to harvest.

A villager from Sengezane Village in Ward 14 in Gwanda, Mrs Ethel Nyathi said she only managed to plough a small portion of her field because of the delayed rains and draught power challenges. She said she was hopeful of getting a little harvest but it would not be enough to last until the next farming season.

A news crew observed that there is a significant harvest in terms of watermelons and pumpkins which have flooded the Bulawayo-Victoria Falls highway as people sell to travellers. The news crew also visited Binga district during the week and observed that Lusulu has better crops compared to other parts of the district.

Lusulu farmers grow maize, sorghum, millet and cotton and a majority of them have thriving crops although they said their yields will be much lower than the previous years because of poor rains this year.

The first crops didn't do well but those who planted when the district was hit by floods last month are expecting a significant harvest if rains continue.

Acting Binga District Development Coordinator Mr Farai Marinyame said the general crop situation is not pleasing in the district although Lusulu and parts of Siabuwa have a better crop.

Source - chronicle