COMMENT:Let’s start preparing for the forecast El Nino phenomenon now
MOST parts of the country are set to receive normal to below normal rainfall over the forthcoming summer due to an El Nino phenomenon.
That is according to a recent forecast by meteorological experts from Sadc. If it comes to pass, the prediction basically means we are headed for a drought after a decent 2022-2023 harvest. The drought will mean a poor harvest for rain-fed production, and possible food shortage in some households. Also, the dryness can mean poor pasture development and livestock malnourishment leading to possible morbidity and mortality.
Authorities have started preparing for that worst-case scenario. Up to 3,5 million households will get free Government inputs to enable them to farm under the climate-proofed system, Pfumvudza/Intwasa, from 3 million last year. The Government has been distributing the free inputs since August and wants farmers to plant with the first rains.
We are optimistic the farmers have dug their holes, mulched them, have received the free inputs and are just looking to the sky for the first rains. As soon as it rains, they get into action.
However, there is much more to farming than crop production. As highlighted, the El Nino phenomenon, could hit livestock as well, thus the Government is working hard to ensure that those who have cattle, goats, sheep and other livestock are supported to navigate through the possible adverse weather conditions.
Dr John Basera, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development, in Bubi, Matabeleland North on Wednesday said the Government will support 200 000 farmers in Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South, Masvingo and southern Manicaland to produce on-farm livestock feed.
“The Government is rolling out the on-farm forage improvement programme whereby we are saying do not burn the veld but go out, cut and harvest the grass, then bale it,” he said.
“Once you do that you then do a process called urea treatment. As Government we are going to be supporting 200 000 beneficiaries under our livestock survival strategy for this season. They will be getting a bag of urea each to do urea treatment on their farms. If you treat one tonne of forage, maize stover or wheat straw among other options you are as good as someone who has got one tonne of feed from the store.”
The Government is training trainers in urea treatment after which those trained would go to the ground to train many more farmers on how they could build supplementary feed banks to take their livestock through the projected lean period.
About 500 000 more households will also be supported to do on-farm feed formulation under the Presidential Forage Programme.
The Government has moved well on time thus we hope that those trained in urea treatment will soon be on the ground to teach farmers to harvest the grass we have now, and bale it for future use.
Although the rains are forecast to be normal to below normal, we are confident that whatever rains will fall over the next few months will be enough to ensure that some pastures regenerate. As soon as that happens, farmers must harvest that grass, treat it with urea, stockpile it and feed their cattle when the situation demands.