Bad practices by farmers are partly to blame for their plight as they are making agricultural production difficult in some areas.
Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Deputy Minister Davis Marapira said last Friday that although the 2015/16 farming season was declared a drought, farmers could have been in a better situation had they been careful in their farming practices.
He said careless practices such as stream bank cultivation, deforestation, vandalism of irrigation equipment at farms and unplanned settlements had brought some of the challenges bedevilling farmers.
Deputy Minister Marapira said livestock farmers were battling to save their cattle from the famine because there was limited grazing after most of the pastures were invaded by illegal settlers. “We no longer have land for pastures,” he said. “People have settled themselves on grazing lands and now we don’t have anywhere to move cattle to for better pastures. We’re losing cattle to drought.
“We can talk of irrigation as a way of mitigating the drought, but most rivers have dried up due to siltation. Rivers have silted because farmers grow crops alongside stream banks.
“Now, some farmers have planted crops on silted rivers. We’ve allowed people to do what they want and this has affected agriculture. How can we irrigate when the rivers are full of sand? Kariba Dam is silted and all feeding tributaries are silted. Even if we’re to invest in irrigation, if farmers don’t change their practices, we’ll continue to have problems. We only realise the severity of these careless practices when we face disaster such as this drought.”
Besides causing siltation, Deputy Minister Marapira said some farmers had vandalised irrigation equipment.
“It’s bad that some farmers are interested in selling irrigation equipment instead of putting it to use,” he said. “The Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement should repossess the farms of those farmers vandalising property and give them to people who are hard working and deserve to have land.”
Deputy Minister Marapira said there was need to re-visit the settlement patterns and correct the anomalies, but said this could not be done overnight and the remedy will take long to benefit the farmers.