OPINION: What if 2015/16 is a drought season?


Morris Mpala, MoB Capital Ltd
As a child my mother used to advise me not to dwell on bad things for if I did, then they would come true.

If you so passionately wish, then it happens today, I would have been berated for bringing bad omen to the 2015/16 agricultural season.

And this would have meant the rod was to caress my behind with the same ferocity of an alluvial gold miner on his claim but wishing it (drought) wasn’t going to be true.

The looming drought is going to be a dent on the fiscus as drought dampens the spirit of spending.

The seasons are changing and the water quality and quantity is changing.

The yields are getting affected.

This is building anxiety on the smaller farmers in our communities.

Now with all information at hand, it is pointing towards a not so good agricultural season the world over  and this is threatening food security, otherwise at MoB Capital, we call it food integrity ( for us by us in the manner we want it ).

If there is drought, then the recovery will be in 2017 when the next harvest is realised.

What does a drought season mean to the small farmer who is more subsistence in his/her production?

Drought resistant crops
Short varieties will be the way to go to mitigate the minimal natural rains anticipated.

Your traditional crops that are drought resistant should be encouraged.

Get informed about the best crops for your area to suit your below normal rains expected.

Water harvesting techniques
The season is expected to be below normal therefore all rain water has to be harvested.

Collecting from various sources to recycling water and correct and consistent proper use of water.

Optimal use of the little water available would be key to survival.

Mixed farming
Due to this looming drought, it will be in the best interest for farmers to practice mixed farming techniques to mitigate risk of one line of production failing.

Include livestock (small included) in your horticultural concerns.

Combine all farming areas under one area in a manner that is consistent with the place, soils and your rain fall patterns projected.

Floods looming
Unfortunately, with the Eli Nino phenomena floods could be experienced too.

Secure your homesteads, work stations and productions systems especially if you are low land based.

It will be wise to get to know the best insurance cover to get for you and your equipment without forgetting your homestead.

Livestock management
It was one area where farmers will have to be less emotional and do strategic planning.

They might be need to let go some livestock to save the bigger part of the livestock through supplementary feeding.

Community based initiatives
Children are the future that we are investing in and the need to supplement their feeding by coming together to cater for them and other vulnerable groups should be encouraged.

The Isiphala seNkosi concept is to be resuscitated.

Sharing mitigation ideas and knowledge is the way to go and becomes cost effective if its community based due to economies of scale.

Livestock feed
The prices of feed on the market resemble an extortion regime at best.

It is time we invested in research and development to produce feed that is cost effective.

We are not encouraging GMO based feed.

We need to be cognizant that the needy are in remote areas and feed reaches these farmers at pricey levels.

As a farmer one needs to look at alternative or supplementary feeding techniques to sustain their animals during this period.

Crop management
Short-term crops that use less water to maximize on production.

The buzz word is short varieties combined with daily cash generating crops that will help to keep the homestead financial healthy.

Strategic Planning
Now is the time to understand your homestead as a financial entity that needs relevant nourishment to prevent financial kwashiorkor.

A strategic thinking mind will be key to survival on the small farmer.

You might want to befriend the agritex officer, the weather analysts and financial advisor.

It is not looking good and there are no trial and errors as it will cost the home stead.

It’s time to seek knowledge far and wide so as to base your decisions on a well informed position.

Information is power.

For example drilling more boreholes is not a solution but having a reliable high yielding borehole is . Then strategically invest in one.

These are pivotal for irrigation and having water systems that can store water for production purposes.

These should be in such a manner that evaporation is lost at minimal levels and leakages are religiously repaired.

Loan repayments
Let’s have a look at our capital that was used to finance the project such that drought season doesn’t affect our loans repayment that might affect  your financial well being.

Go to your financiers and change the payment plan in line with your new projections.

Those that are about to borrow base it on your new outlook.

Service your loans to the best of your ability.

Where possible, do not borrow, use your personal savings and only borrow when the need arise.

Annual growth rate
The growth projections have to be revised downwards and should be adjusted accordingly as new information or data is being collected.

Kindly adjust your targets accordingly for taxation or compliance purposes in line with the anticipated drought so as to file the correct figures and be levied accordingly by the authorities.

Irrigation systems
Employ irrigation systems that are efficient, effective like drip irrigation.

This gives adequate resources to production with no wastages.

Preserving Methods
Learn new and better techniques of preserving harvest to keep your produce longer and fresher.

The little harvest is key to food security and keeping it to the next harvest is vital.

We know it sounds a bit farfetched to say ‘save’ but you have to save for the homestead no matter how little it will be.

The homestead has multiple income streams from direct or indirect sources.

Savings creates a buffer in case of emergencies to cater for health, animal disease or buy extra food rations to cover yourself to the next harvest.

Need to strengthen family ties to pool resources together to help sustain the vulnerable homesteads of our kith and kin.

We need to go back to basic Ubuntu of living.

Partner with Government
Farmers need to partner with  the government, non-governmental organisations, relief workers, church organisations, chiefs to provide relevant real time info/data for planning purposes . The government needs to know the situation on the ground and those logistics can only come from farmers.

The above are stakeholders in the food security provisions thus  need this crucial information to plan accordingly for timely interventions.

Due to the looming drought, you might want to turn your drought prone animals, produce into hard cash as it will preserve value.

Go to your nearest very solid bank and open an investment account (with no charges) and you will invest for a fixed term or otherwise.

Never mind the interest, all you are worried about is security and avoid risk of blowing your money that you will need to turn back into livestock when the weather conditions are favorable once again.

Look for an effective investment account not your ordinary accounts.

If it is your ordinary account make sure it is a zero rated on all charges so that you don’t lose any penny in your monies invested.

Please open a US dollar account as it is a relatively stable currency.

Keep smiling
At times things don’t go our way, please as a farmer do not lose that smile.

Keeping a smile means you are not giving up and makes you live to fight another day which is your next season.

Be thankful for the gift of life at least.

The smile will take you to the next farming season armed with lessons from this season.

Keep that smile because it is not expensive to do so, and it is healthier than frowning as science has proven.

Above all, keep the family closer as it is financially sound to do that during trying times.

It is about Hope and Faith and keeping in line with reality.

Agriculture has gone all scientific and very financial so managing these small plots or homesteads is becoming a science than just our knowledge passed down on us by our fore fathers through our parents.

The need to commercialise our small operations has become a priority as that means survival for now and the future.

We wish our farmers out there the best in their yields.




Morris Mpala is managing director of MoB Capital (Pvt) Limited, a microfinance institution offering loans, micro-insurance and advisory services to small to medium enterprises as well as individuals.

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