Harare – The rains that have been falling in Zimbabwe over the past two weeks have renewed hope by farmers who had seen their crops wilting throughout December.
There were fears that the country was headed for another devastating drought this year.
But agriculture experts this week said farmers in most parts of Zimbabwe were hopeful that the rains would revive their crops, with some busy replanting, planting and grooming their crops which they had abandoned as they had lost hope of receiving any rains.
A report by the Zimbabwe Meteorological Services Department indicated that most parts of the country received low to normal rains of about 35 millimetres to 60 millimetres. In fact, some areas experienced heavy rains which resulted in flooding.
Farmers in Zimbabwe have been urged to turn to climate smart crops and short season varieties like small grains, beans, sunflower and many others that can survive even below normal rains.
Wendy Mudzuri, a top agronomist, said farmers not only in Zimbabwe but the whole of SADC region should consider turning to smart agriculture.
“Climate change is real, and yes our rainy season is no longer the same as what we used to have. Drought is real, but that shouldn’t stop our people from farming. Now is the time to practice climate smart agriculture. If the rains are not enough to cater for maize, why not grow rapoko (finger millet), beans, sunflower and many other crops that can sustain the little rains?
“Farmers can still not die of hunger if they do climate smart agriculture, they will survive. You can sell your beans and buy mealie meal, there is nothing wrong with that,” she said.
Zimbabwe is one of the countries that was affected by the El Nino-induced drought that hit most countries within the SADC region during the 2018/19 season, and according to the latest report from the Agricultural Geo-monitoring Initiative (GEOLAM), Southern Africa is likely to face another drought this year.
GEOGLAM indicates that the entire region is forecast to receive below-average rainfall that may affect crops, making climate smart agriculture the best option to all farmers from within the region.
Due to drought, famers did not only have to go through the loss of replanting, as they have also lost cattle and many other domestic animals.
More than 20 000 cattle in Zimbabwe have succumbed to drought.
Matebeleland South province, the province that carries almost half of the national herd, lost almost 16 000 cattle to drought.
Dr Enat Mhlongwa, the Matebeleland South provincial veterinary officer, confirmed that his province had so far recorded 16 000 deaths of cattle, adding that it could be more since not all farmers report deaths.
“At least 16 000 cattle have so far been reported dead due to drought. We understand they could be more because not all farmers are reporting the deaths.
“We are going through water shortages, water bodies are fast drying up and as it stands stock feed is the only option we have,” he said.