September 18, 2021

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Drought Looming for Zimbabwe’s Upper and Lower Regions

By Stephen Ephraem

A Chipinge agricultural expert is warning that the persistent rains experienced in the district might affect the expected yield for this farming season.

Speaking to Post On Sunday, the expert who preferred to remain anonymous indicated that rains received from two tropical cyclones namely Chalane and Eloise which hit the district in December and January 2021 respectively and the current persistent rains might reduce the season maize yield.

Zimbabwe’s eastern region and Mashonaland East among other regions have received above normal rainfall, which is a cause for concern for government to start preparing for food aid caused by incessant rains which will result to drought.

“The upper part of Chipinge usually gets a yield of 4 000 metric tons during bad seasons. But this year the area might not reach that minimum yield.
“The persistent rains have seriously affected maize production this season. The district has crop under government programs such as Pfumvudza and Command Agriculture.

“We are estimating a 40% drop in expected yield. Continuous rains have put a high demand in Ammonium Nitrate fertilizers for top dressing but product is scarce,” said the expert.
Contacted for a comment, the District Agriculture Extension Officer for Chipinge, Tapiwanashe Chagwesha said that as much as rains are good they also need to have a break required in order to have a good harvest.

“The persistent rains are equal to a drought because they cause water logging and crops end up having stunted growth since they won’t develop in that situation. Most hectarage under Pfumvudza and Command Agriculture has been affected.

“The other challenges are that there is heavy leaching of nutrients in the soil. The few fertilizers that were applied to crops are being carried away by the rains resulting with the crop yellowish in colour.

“Also, farmers are failing to do hand weeding because the fields are always wet. Alternatively, they should have been using herbicides to control weeds but due to the COVID-19 challenges, most farmers are failing to buy the chemicals,” said Chagwesha.

The district agriculture head indicated that if the rains won’t stop in the near future, the situation can worsen for those who have early crop.

“There are some farmers who have planted an early crop and are expecting to harvest between end of February and March. If the rains don’t stop, we might face rotting of cobs. The cob rotting problem might affect 50% of the early crop,” added Chagwesha
However this is not only affecting the country’s 2 provinces, but other districts as well.

Effort to get a comment from both the minister of Lands and Agriculture Dr Anxious Masuka and Permanent Secretary John Basera were fruitless as they gave an excuse of the situation being too technical and required a technical respond by a technical person to what measures the government has put in place to alleviate hunger in the affected areas.

Agricultural experts have already declared year 2021 and 2022 a drought season for some parts of the country and need for provision of food to the affected people as the rains has destroyed most crops and infrastructure.