So, in the period between November and the end of the holidays, I travelled across 5 provinces: Mashonaland West, Mashonaland East, Mashonaland Central, Midlands and Masvingo and as usual I was observing. In the areas where there were little rains, Masvingo and Midlands and parts of Mashonaland West such as Sanyati, there were wide expanses of field-nothingness- very little rains and very few crops. “It is going to be a drought year,” the whispers were going round. “Will this one be better than the 1992 one?” one man asked. “I have heard that when farmers struggle with low seed germination it means that there will be a bumper harvest,” some people commented. I thought, “the irony of it, that the rains are scarce where they are desperately needed and where the people like to grow maize, these people survive on farming and their farming depends on the rains and the rains are nowhere to be found.”
Meanwhile in Harare, Mashonaland Central and Mashonaland East where it was raining cats and dogs the people were investing in cash crops-hectares on hectares of tobacco.
These observations got me thinking around a lot of issues.
1. In areas where it is not raining so much and the seasons seem to have changed, is the problem climate change?
2. If it is climate change what is government doing to educate the masses?
3. Have we adapted our seed to create shorter season, early germination and maturing seed that adapts to the shorter seasons and lesser rainfall?
4. If so how much do the people in the farming communities know about this and what is being done to educate them around such issues?
Pondering on all these issues I was then confronted with an allegation that not only shocked but enraged me, if it is true. The farmers I met claimed that the seeds had a very poor germination ratio because those producing seed were mixing expired seed from previous seasons with current seed. The old seed was not germinating and the new seed was less in each pack. So on top of footing the expensive bill of purchasing seed & other inputs & putting in many hours of hard labour; farmers were also being defrauded. Dear Min of Agriculture, you would do well to investigate this possible fraudulent disservice to our farmers and our economy.
Above all, there is a dire need to invest in irrigation to offset drought vulnerability. In Sanyati it was sad to see the few young crops withering away, while Munyati river was overflowing from its tributaries in the Munyati area where it was raining. There is also need to ensure timely supply of inputs, and a verification of the quality of those inputs. Zimbabwe needs food and as the World Food Programme estimated, almost 2.2 million people will need food aid. We should be producing more food and I sincerely hope something is done to address this need soon.