Small-scale farmers: Drought looms
Morris Mpala, MoB Capital Ltd
IT’S that time of the year once again when I bring in bad news and start warning my fellow small-scale farmers. Forewarned is forearmed. There is a looming drought season ahead and as at now everything else is pointing towards a not-so-good season ahead.
It could be there would be no rains at all, the rain distribution could be bad or just a little rain evenly distributed across the season. It’s a season to make painful decisions, timely decisions, informed decisions, religious decisions, honest decisions and right decisions at the right time first time so as to preserve value of your properties and livestock.
The price of inputs just skyrocketed to unprecedented levels as most items. Good news is fuel is still retailing at good prices and availability has stabilised.
Land preparations, be prepared
Stay prepared, do preparations for land as if it’s going to be a good season in case it turns out to be. Then leave everything to the Lord. Don’t prepare vast pieces of land. You might want to stagger the preparations while monitoring the weather patterns depending on the crop you want to put in the ground.
Please be informed at all times.
Repairs and maintenance
It’s time to test all your agriculture equipment, dams, tanks, roofs and all. Put all your systems to test and gauge what they can handle in terms of irrigation, winds, heavy rains and the general readiness for use for the new season. You don’t want production to be affected at all. It’s time to cull your big and small livestock. It’s better to start culling now and get good prices to preserve value.
Obsession with our animals until near death or natural death is not advisable as it could be a complete loss or little monetary receipts. You might want to explore barter trade with goods that you may need. Remain with a manageable number in case of emergencies. Make a business decision than an emotional decision. During better times you can then restock. Where possible get drought resistant animals and make use of drought power.
It’s time to get your stock feed ready. Get your bales of grass preserved and ready for the lean times. Maize stalks are to be stored in right places. Any other supplementary/alternative feed that you can get your hands on please stock up. Destock, buy supplementary feed to save remaining flock until the lean season subsides.
Be careful how you invest in your agricultural business this season. You can go big if you know what you are doing (very certain of good production and assured markets) or be conservative to manage the downside of the drought at hand. Do a bit of research on this and only base decisions on a thoroughly informed position (as always). Where you are borrowed, reduce your exposure or borrow as little as possible. Where you encounter challenges communication will be key to your financiers to re-schedule payments. You might want to have other sources of income during these lean times.
It’s in your best interest to insure yourself, your family, your livestock and your crops to cover some unforeseen eventualities. This is key during these lean times we are approaching. A soft landing is vital when adversity strikes to avoid catastrophic losses that will destroy the farming business for good. It’s wise to cover your back and hedge against many risks that might occur.
Water harvesting skills
Harvest your rain water and conserve the little that might fall from the barren skies. Prevent evaporation as much as possible. Storage facilities should be cleaned up and increased to cater for less rainfall. Invest in storage facilities in line with your agricultural concern and capacity. As the situation gets bad you might have to scale down operations to preserve water for the entire barren season and a sustainable agricultural practice. Use of drip irrigation as opposed to flooding would be key. Reclaim used water for other purposes.
This season let’s plant more fruit trees and indigenous trees to preserve the environment and also increase our health in the community. The air is polluted and our landscapes are badly scared thus need to reclaim the environment for a better farming community. Work with less for more. On a small piece of land increase yields so as to minimise cost of production.
Investigate all possible ways of maximising yield in whatever agricultural concern you are undertaking.
During these drought years you can make a lot of money when your timing is right or when you produce right as it’s a time of shortages due to water shortages. Production in most cases goes low and due to demand prices could rise and a wise farmer could cash in big on this but your house has to be in order as I have eluded to above. Let’s hope it will be an above normal rainfall season otherwise I have armed you in advance thus happy farming for 2018/2019 season.
IF YOU LIVE IN BULAWAYO PLEASE CONSERVE WATER. IF YOU LIVE IN ZIMBABWE PLEASE USE ELECTRICITY SPARINGLY SWITCH OFF SWITCHES (SOS). IF YOU LIVE ON PLANET EARTH
Morris Mpala is the managing director of MoB Capital Limited, a Bulawayo head-quartered micro-finance institution with footprint across the country.