BY BOKANI MUDIMBA
A drive along highways and feeder roads in Matabeleland North reveals a sad state of affairs as farmers desperately wait for the rains to salvage what is left of their wilting crop.
“I was hoping to get a bumper harvest this year considering I planted more plots than I did last year, but it looks like this has all gone up in smoke,” says Funani Dube, a communal farmer in Mabale area, Hwange district.
“The dry spell has killed all hope.
“Maize, groundnuts and beans are a write-off and my only remaining hope is on sorghum and millet, that is if we can get meaningful rains now.”
Dube is among many farmers whose hopes have been shattered by the prolonged dry spell.
Most areas last received meaningful rains in January, though occasional showers in some parts were received lately.
Dube says she also wakes up each morning to go to her fields to guard crops from being devoured by roaming wildlife.
“It’s painful to watch the fruits of your hard labour disappear into thin air.
“Each passing day I look at my crops turning grey and only hope God will smile at us one day and bring rains that can salvage the little that is left,” said Funani Dube, a communal farmer.
A majority of farmers embraced the government conservation programme better known as Intwasa.
Jane Sibanda, also from Hwange in Mwemba, says the situation in the fields was depressing.
“We hear the Meteorological Services Department saying rains are coming but every day nothing happens,” Sibanda.
“All my three maize plots and groundnuts are a write-off. My hope is on sorghum which is at vegetative stage.”
Most farmers in Hwange, Tsholotsho, Binga and Lupane among other districts are convinced 2022 will be a drought year as the rains have been erratic.
Last season most farmers had a bumper harvest as the country received normal to above normal rains.
The Meteorological Services Department (MSD) predicted normal to above normal rainfall in the 2021/2022 farming season.
The rainy season usually runs from October to March.
Light rains have been falling in some parts of Matabeleland North but farmers feel they need heavy rains, at least once, for the crops to survive.
Dorah Tshuma of Makwandara area who planted 15 plots of maize, sorghum and millet as well as legumes said cattle will also be affected as pastures disappear while available water sources also dry.
“There are no two ways about it, this year we are likely to face serious drought,” Tshuma said.
“By now we should be enjoying fresh farm produce but as we speak there is nothing at all.
“Local streams and pools of water are beginning to dry up.
“We might have serious water problems this year and this will affect our livestock.
“In the bush pastures are drying up and we fear our cattle will succumb to hunger.”
Government, through the Presidential Input Scheme and Intwasa programmes, supplied farmers with agricultural inputs such as seeds and fertilizer including fodder seeds for livestock farmers. But without rain, these inputs will amount to nothing.
For Matabeleland North, meaningful crop farming is practiced in Umguza and Nyamandlovu areas, Lusulu in Binga and Matetsi in Hwange.
Other parts are sandy, rocky or infested with wild animals that devour crops.
Matabeleland North provincial Department of Agricultural, Technical and Extension Services (Agritex) officer Dumisani Nyoni believes that there is still hope for the late crops, especially small grains.
“We are still assessing the situation as yet with hope of getting rains so that those who planted millet and sorghum to at least get something,” Nyoni said.
“We can’t rightly give up now but generally the situation is bad, considering that people had planted hoping there would be meaningful rains.”
Acting Chief Mvuthu said the central government would need to be prepared to distribute food handouts to its citizens.
“Some still have grains from last season but some may have finished and this may not last them the whole year,” he said.
“So the central government will need to be very alert of communities that are likely to be affected by hunger.”
*This article was originally published by The Citizen Bulletin, a nonprofit news organisation that produces hard-hitting, hyperlocal reporting and analysis for the southwestern region of Matabeleland.
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