Zimbabwe: The 2021-22 Cropping Season Has Not Lost All Positivity!

PREDICTIONS of a 2021/22 cropping season with normal to above normal rains unsurprisingly triggered lots of expectations among farmers and other stakeholders as they foresaw a repeat of the preceding term’s bumper yields, thanks to the lavish rains.

Fast forward to the second half of the season, most of the once-expectant farmers are emotionally and psychologically struggling to make sense of what’s going on in a season expected to bring back fond memories of a bumper harvest after the rains unceremoniously vanished to only God knows where.

In fact, some of the farmers have lost the bulk of their once-flourishing crops to the blistering heat that marked the better part of the second half of the season.

Others escaped with partially scorched fields while others were fortunate enough to be in the path of one or two stray showers that saw their crops surviving unto the present to be nursed by the recent rains believed to come courtesy of Cyclone Gombe.

At least the crops that survived the scorching sun plus spill-overs from last season can still address food security issues for many, hoping that people did not get overly excited and sold every extra grain they had from last year.

Away from this gloomy situation, the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) recently revealed that water levels in the country’s major dams had remained largely static due to the current prolonged dry spell, high temperatures and the resultant decline in inflows.

This revelation by Zinwa should, however, goad all those with irrigation facilities to plant wheat or any other winter crop to bolster the national food stocks.

The water in our dams is enough to see farmers growing crops to maturity given that the season has not ended and there are still prospects for more inflows into the dams from natural rains.

Current political disturbances in Eastern Europe where we get some of our supplementary wheat may affect the country’s access to those supply markets hence the need to have more wheat planted locally and fill up our strategic grain reserves.

The current national dam level average is 90,2 percent, which is higher than the 71,8 percent expected during this period of the year.

Zinwa corporate communications and marketing manager, Mrs Marjorie Munyonga, aptly described the outlook as favourable at a national scale although she added that there were major dams, which were still below 50 percent and therefore unable to support important socio-economic activities in the absence of further inflows.

It is, therefore, crucial for all the irrigating farmers and other raw water users who intend to draw water from Zinwa managed sources to start lodging their applications with their respective service centres and catchments for water reservations ahead of the commencement of the winter cropping season.

These applications will pave the way for the signing of water abstraction agreements between Zinwa and the water users and help the authority to efficiently plan and allocate the available water resources in an orderly manner.

It is also refreshing to note that Zinwa has rehabilitated 4 423 hectares of irrigation schemes as part of efforts to help improve productivity and water use efficiency countrywide.

This is, of course, in line with the authority’s new mandate to help improve productivity and water use efficiency at the beneficiary irrigation schemes countrywide.

Government has since indicated that Zinwa should lead in water harvesting and conveyancing for 350 000 hectares under the Accelerated Irrigation Revitalisation and Development Plan by end of this year.

Zinwa should also drill 35 000 boreholes for 35 000 villages and 9 600 boreholes for schools by December 2025 in a development that makes more water available for irrigation even in bad seasons.

Zinwa has so far completed rehabilitation works at irrigation schemes such as Arda Transau, Chilonga, Mananda, Sherwood Block, Lukosi, Nyamangara, Chomutamba, Taona, Deure and Bonde, Mhakwe, Vimbanayi, Chibuwe, Musaverema, Mushandike, Mapanzure and Silabuhwa.

The rehabilitation works included repairs of conveyance canals, silt removal, resuscitation of pumping works, installation of pump sets, construction of pump houses, installation of electric motors and electrical improvements.

While it is still work in progress, River Ranch, Bubi Lupane, Impalavale, Hauke, Chimhanda, Chitora, Maryland, Seke Sanyati, Nenhowe and Mutange, those farmers whose rehabilitation works have since been completed should now be seized with effectively using the infrastructure and boost production in line with the drive to help the country regain its ‘Bread Basket of Africa’ status once again.

Government through the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development is currently implementing various programmes.

These include the National Accelerated Irrigation Rehabilitation and Development Programme targeting irrigation rehabilitation and development of at least 200 hectares in every district implemented annually over a period of 10 years.

However, amid the despondency brought by the dry spell, there has also been something to smile about – there has been a 72 percent decrease in tick borne disease inspired cattle deaths with the condition of animals described as fair to good from the First Round Crop and Livestock Assessment report.

The good livestock condition has been attributed to the widespread rains, which led to pasture regeneration and its ultimate availability in abundance.

The report also revealed that 18 041 cattle deaths were recorded in 2021 compared to 64 086 in 2020 with a total of 188 048 tick-borne diseases reported in 2021 compared to 288 911 cases in 2020. Tick-borne diseases are the major contributor to the majority of cattle mortalities across all farming sectors compared to other diseases.

Livestock condition is said to be generally good in southern parts of the country while fair in the northern parts.

The southern parts mainly fall under natural region IV and V that are known for their sweet veld.

This is an indication that the quality of grazing in those parts of the country is good, explained the report, adding that northern parts which are mainly in natural region I, II and III are characterised by the sour veld and a high proportion of the invader species.

Such regions may have adequate grazing, but it will be of poor quality hence the fair condition of the livestock.

The report also highlighted that livestock condition varied depending on farming category under which a farmer falls with the smallholder sectors (communal, A1 and old resettlement areas) synonymous with livestock in fair condition while A2 and large-scale sectors have livestock in good condition.

This disparity essentially results from the various management methods the farmers use.

Farmers in the smallholder category should up their game and take a leaf from what their counterparts in the large-scale are doing and not always hide behind the flimsy reason that they are ill-resourced.

If it involves dipping cattle, they just need to do it religiously and also apply the tick grease they are getting for free under the Presidential Tick Grease programme.

There is also nothing that stops them from working in groups to buy acaricides for cattle dipping and pasture management for the benefit of their animals.

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