Crop situation remains critical

Dry maize crop-IRIN

Despite receiving rains last week, the crop situation is still unpredictable. pic by IRIN

THE unfolding impacts of the El Nino phenomenon now projected to continue through March 2016 as according to Zimbabwe’s Meteorological Services Department has raised concerns about the country’s food security.
Despite receiving rains last week, the crop situation is still unpredictable as some crops in some parts of the country especially in the south had been declared a write off. The situation in some areas remains desperate.
In the Lowveld areas of Manicaland, Nyanynyadzi, Chisumbanje, Chakohwa, and Middle Sabi, the crop has been declared a write off. In Masvingo: Mwenezi and the southern parts of Masvingo, the whole of Matabeleland South, Most parts of Matabeleland North, with the rains received last week, farmers have started re-planting in the hope of salvaging something.
Also, in Mashonaland Central, Rushinga, Mushumbi Pools and Muzarabani, the crop was a write off.
In southern parts of Zimbabwe, farmers have already lost cattle and crops in the severest drought to hit the nation in a quarter of a century, reports indicating that at least 16 000 cattle have been lost.
However, the recent rains brought relief to farmers, with hopes of harvesting some grain from the crops that survived the heat.
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president Wonder Chabikwa said in terms of rainfall received from January 25, 2016 the distribution countrywide was good for crop production.
“Before the rains, the crop situation was bad and most areas in region 4 and 5 had been declared a write off but with the help of cloud seeding from the Meteorological Services Department which began on January 11 to January 15 and on January 24, 2016 the rains came as a relief, especially for the crop that had survived the dry spell,” Chabikwa said.
Chabikwa added that the loss of livestock was not due to starvation but due to lack of drinking water as cattle can still survive on the available dry matter.
“The weather forecast prediction was in August, 2015 and as farmers we should have prepared for this scenario and could have avoided the huge losses that are being experienced in the livestock sector,” he said.
According to the World Food Programme (WFP), Zimbabwe Situation January Report, as of mid-January, over 90 percent of the country had received below average rainfall with some southern and western areas receiving less than half of normal rainfall amounts for this period.
“Area planted to cereals was significantly lower than last year, a below average season. A high proportion of households in the south did not plant due to persistent dryness. In northern parts of the country, crops are in fair condition; however some were experiencing moisture stress in some marginal areas,” WFP said.
Significantly below-average and poorly-distributed seasonal rainfall since October has negatively affected many countries in southern Africa. Exacerbated by a poor rainfall seasonal performance last year, several consecutive weeks of inadequate rainfall led to reduced water availability, delayed planting, wilted crops and livestock deaths.
“The full impact of El Ninno continues to be experienced across the country, including late onset of rains by 20– to 30-days in the eastern parts of the country. As of late December, most areas in the western and southern parts of the country had received less than 100 mm of rainfall, a concerning amount given that the average seasonal totals for the December to March period typically range between 450 and 650 mm of rainfall. Areas that experienced early onset of rains were affected by subsequent prolonged dry conditions and high temperatures, negatively affecting crops.
“Communities experiencing prolonged dry conditions are reportedly panicking in view of constrained food access, including from poor vegetable production. Farmer to farmer sales have stopped, and most rely on cereal purchases for survival, with food assistance providing a major source of cereal. Livelihood options are limited, with declining opportunities for casual field labour and increased cases of livestock death. Many households have resorted to coping strategies such as skipping meals or reducing portion sizes. Some have resorted to illegal firewood sales for income,” the WFP reported.
Environment, Water and Climate Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri last week said that the situation was bleak, as the country’s water sources were drying up in all seven catchments, namely Mazowe, Runde, Save, Manyame, Sanyati, Gwayi and Mzingwane.

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