Agric, Environment & Innovations Editor
The 2021 – 2022 rainfall season, largely marked by above-average rains in some regions and poor and erratic rainfall in others has ended, the Meteorological Services Department (MSD) says.
Benjamin Kwenda, an agriculture meteorologist at the MSD confirmed to the Herald on Friday the rainfall season had come to an end.
“Yes, the rainfall season has ended. We are unlikely to receive more rains that could have a significant impact on cropping,” he said.
The late on-set and early off-set of rainfall, rising input costs, excessive rainfall in some parts and drought in others had not bode well for the 2022 cropping season in the country.
Rainfall received during the second last half of the season in January to April period came too late in the production season to save crops in most regions of the country.
Crop losses have been significant in most south-eastern and south-western districts and households in these areas are likely to get poor harvests as many of the farmers experienced total crop failure.
Erratic rainfall was also likely to result in short-lived improvements to food security.
Generally, Zimbabwe has a mixed food security situation – with some households in regions that got better rains likely to have grain that could last up to 12 months or more while those that received less rainfall, could harvest grain that can last between four and six months.
In the worst affected regions, the majority of plantings in the 2021 – 22 season were significantly delayed.
“The 2021/2022 season started late in the second and third dekad (a 10-day rainfall period) of December 2021 in most parts of the country. Where it started early in the last week of October to mid-November 2021, it was a false start,” according to the Second Round Crop and Livestock Assessment report.
“Rainfall distribution was poor in both space and time across the country. There were incessant rains in January followed by a prolonged dry spell in the first week of February to the end of March.
“The false start of the season resulted in failed crop establishment forcing most farmers to replant several times. The late-onset caused late plantings which were later affected by the prolonged dry spell at the reproductive stage causing write offs especially in the central and southern parts of the country.”
Climate change has had a negative impact on crop production as rainfall patterns change and temperatures rise.
Experts say the changing climatic patterns have resulted in food insecurity in some regions in the country due to erratic rainfall in some areas and excessive rains in others.
Last September, regional climate experts forecasted normal to above-normal rainfall during the three months from October to December 2021r, the first half of the season, but normal to below normal rainfall in an arc along the Atlantic and into the north of the region, the area encompassing north-western Angola, most of Democratic Republic of Congo, western and southern Madagascar, northern Malawi, northern Mozambique, the western fringes of Namibia and South Africa, and south-western Tanzania and north-eastern Zambia.
Normal to above-normal rains in both halves of the season were forecasted for Zimbabwe.
At the time, climate experts said there was a greater chance of a La Nina weather system in the central Pacific Ocean, a weather event normally associated with wetter conditions in Southern Africa.
After suffering from back-to-back droughts, Zimbabwe got a bumper harvest of maize and small grains in the 2020 -2021 cropping season following good rains that were received in the country.
This bolstered the country’s food security and helped the agricultural sector to grow by 34 percent.
Zimbabwe’s maize production increased from 907 628 tonnes produced in the 2019 – 2020 season to 2 717 171 tonnes in the 2020 – 2021 period – the highest yield in 20 years.
In the 2021 – 2022 farming season, Zimbabwe is expecting to produce more than 1,5 million tonnes of maize, about 43 percent lower than the grain produced in the previous season.
Small grains production for the 2021 – 2022 season is estimated at 194 100 tonnes, a decrease of about 44 percent from the 347 968 tonnes harvested in the 2020 – 2021 cropping season.