Richard Muponde Gwanda Correspondent
CROPS in Matabeleland South are a write-off due to erratic rains which fell this season, a technical report on the crop situation in the province has revealed.
Recommendations have since been made to the government to encourage the production of small grains in the province which are drought resistant.
This was revealed in a report presented to the Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development responsible for Livestock, Cde Paddy Zhanda, in Gwanda on Wednesday.
Cde Zhanda was leading a team which was assessing the effects of drought in Gwanda District and also toured the most affected areas.
In his report, Dr Mbuso Moyo, the Matabeleland South provincial veterinary service officer, said most crops were a write-off.
He said the crop situation was seriously threatening food security in the province.
“Delayed, low and erratic rains affected crop hectarage and conditions. Twenty percent of the crop is very poor, 50 percent is poor while 30 percent is fair. Around 40 percent of the crop is at vegetative stage, 15 percent at late vegetative while 45 percent is a write-off and is undergoing replanting. The decrease in hectarage has serious negative effects on food security in the province,” said Dr Moyo.
He said replants were an extra cost to farmers in terms of fertiliser and seed and there was no guarantee of a harvest.
“The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has availed 30 tonnes of sorghum and 30 tonnes of cowpeas in Gwanda, Mangwe and Matobo. Cowpeas are sold out in all districts with a balance of four tonnes for sorghum,” he said.
Dr Moyo said out of 520,000 cattle in the province, 1,251 had died as a result of drought with Matobo district recording the highest number of 456 deaths.
“The condition of livestock is as follows: 20 percent is in good condition, 50 percent fair and 30 percent poor. This picture is as at end of January and is subject to change to any possible extremities depending on how much rainfall we will receive at the end of the season. The wet spell resulted in temporary improvement of grazing areas and slight in-flows in dams and rivers,” said Dr Moyo.
The report recommended that the province should be encouraged to produce small grains.
It also said the government and other partners should expand the survival feeding programme to other districts to save the remaining cattle.
Matabeleland South is predominately a cattle ranching province which has been perennially facing droughts over the years.