Farming/Agriculture

Disaster in Mwenezi as crops wilt

CUTHBERT MASHOKO

MWENEZI-The prolonged dry spell has extinguished hopes of meaningful harvests in Mwenezi as most crops have been written off.

Wilting crops are now a common sight in this drought prone district.

Mwenzei last received meaningful rains in January. Since then high temperatures associated with heat waves of up to 40 degrees Celsius have been ravaging the plants resulting in several farmers throwing in the towel.

The district which falls in natural farming region four usually experiences below average rainfall and most farmers in this southern part of the country grow small grain crops. Under “normal circumstances” farmers register bumper harvests with little rainfall. However, the current prolonged dry spell has proved unbearable to plants.

The situation has also affected pastures, giving a double blow to the farmers who must now find means of feeding their livestock. Most farmers in times of drought, destroy trees in a bid to feed their livestock from the scarce green leaves pitching on some trees.

 This practice, which is common in resettlement areas is not only an agent of deforestation, but a threat to the whole ecosystem, since it increases competition for feed between domestic animals and wild animals, with the former having an upper hand due to human aid. The imbalances created in the ecosystem as farmers try to save their livestock influence human wildlife conflict.

As the drought looks certain it gives food for thought on the reality of climate change and the over said measures which by now should have been in place as farmers adhere to climate change resilient practices which minimise the effects of drought.

This brings me to one of my favorite metaphors” Talking does not cook rice”. A lot had been said about pro climate change agriculture but very little has been done to capacitate the farmers as they move away from traditional farming methods that solely rely on rainfall.

 There is need to strengthen water harvesting at community level. Most dams are not holding to their capacity due to siltation. Dams are key reservoirs of water which save both livestock and wild animals.

They also anchor irrigation activities. It is in this vein that devolution funds can be channeled towards upgrading and refurbishing community dams in order to ensure water security at community level.

 It is disheartening to note that some of these dams were long destroyed by Cyclone Eline in 2000 and are yet to be attended to. As such a lot of water which could have been in the dams had been lost. A case in point in Mwenezi West is the Chipangai and Santiza dams, whose dam walls were damaged by Cyclone Eline.

Strengthening water harvesting through dams is a key cog in sustaining irrigation services. This will ensure food security in times of erratic rains. In this regard there is need to unlock the potential of Lake Tugwi Mukosi which has the capacity of turning Masvingo Province into a green belt. More hectares need to be under irrigation as farmers are equipped with the expertise and also the machinery for irrigation.

Equally important in mitigation the effects of Climate Change is the aspect of exploiting underground water. Underground water can be used for irrigation purposes at village level as households water nutritional gardens. This will help to enhance food secure at family level and also lessening the burden on women and the girl child who in most cases shoulder the burden of bringing water home. Solar powered boreholes have proved to be the most ideal in rural areas.

As the El Nino induced drought looks certain, it serves as a wakeup call to the reality of climate change and the needy to capacitate farmers with pro- climate change agricultural techniques. Strengthening water harvesting and exploiting underground water are part of the winning formula.

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