Delayed Rainfall Activity Causes Panic Among Zambian Farmers

Delayed Rainfall Activity Causes Panic Among Zambian Farmers

By Kelvin Mbewe

THE New Year is here and Filius Jere, a farmer from Chipangali in Eastern province of Zambia is worried.

His source of worry is not the impending school fees but the lack of rains which some parts of Zambia are currently experiencing.

His maize field has crops in the knee length that look yellow green indicating that something is definitely wrong somewhere.

Mr Jere is also a worker at the community Markets for Development (COMACO) and has had the privilege to research on the performance of crops in other parts of eastern province.

“I was recently on an assessment tour of crop performance from Lundazi down to Luangwa and the picture is sad. Many places have undergone a consistent spell of drought and many crops are undergoing stress, especially maize planted on ridge instead of the planting basins of conservation farming,” he said.

While others are calling the lack of rains a partial drought, the Zambia Meteorological Department (ZMD) are referring to it as a tropical cyclone Benguita which is being experienced in Lusaka, Eastern, Southern and some parts of Western province.

And The Zambia Agriculture Research Institute (ZARI) which is located in Chilanga which is in the Southern part of Zambia says the northern part of the country has no problem related to lack of rainfall.

“We receive an excess of a thousand in the Northern part while in the southern part we receive less than 800. The Southern part has a bit of a dry spell and this is where the crop will be adversely affected,” said the ZARI director Moses Mwale.

According to ZMD acting senior meteorologist Loveness Nikisi the dry spell will continue in the affected arrears until the tropical cyclone Benguita disappears.

 “These cyclones are very destructive because they bring low pressure in the weather pattern hence the dryness. We are expecting rains on the 29 of January but that does not mean that it will be completely dry, we will have some showers even in area where we expect no rains,” she said.

Despite this predicament government is optimistic that no one will go hungry despite the disappointing rains experienced in some parts of the country.

Minister of Agriculture Dora Siliya said this in a statement from Berlin on the side-lines of the Germany/Africa business Association meeting.

Ms Siliya said government will increase its investment in harvesting rainwater and construction of dams to reduce high dependence on rain-fed agriculture.

She said small dams will have to be constructed throughout the country for irrigation purposes.

“We pray for divine intervention that the armyworm attack is controlled so that it is not as devastating as it was last year, so that we may salvage something from our crops,” she said.

Meanwhile Mr Jere agrees with Ms Siliya that the only hope left is divine intervention, small scale irrigation, among others.

“Farmers and government should seriously consider small-scale irrigation and resort to crop diversification to minimize the impact of the army worm and other pests. I have forwarded picture that may be helpful,” he said.

He says prayer is necessary at the pace things are moving.

“We need to pray hard before the situation gets out of hand. Currently on the maize that has not tasseled stand a chance to bear combs. Groundnuts are pegging and need more water.

 Soya would start flowering soon but will require moisture in the soil to form pods and for the grain to mature. Gliricidia will need to establish its roots before rains wind up,” he said.

John Mwelwa is another farmer from 10 miles in Lusaka and is worried about his yield in this year’s farming season because of armyworms.

“There are no rains and we have armyworms that have invaded our fields and this is a sign that we will not have a bumper harvest. The health of my maize is worrying, it is not growing because there is lack of water,” he said.

Meanwhile on a lighter side a rice farmer in Chilanga Misheck Lombe is optimistic that his yield will not be affected due to the irrigation system that he has ventured in thanks to a nearby water source.

“The performance of the rice is okay, we are expecting a good yield. We have different varieties, some of it has already started flowering. We get our water from the dam but also rely on the rains. The way these paddies work is that they store water and that is why we have not really been affected by the low rains,” he said.

And government has also called on farmers on the electronic voucher system to make use of their cards to redeem pesticides to help fight armyworms.

It is clear that the situation needs all stakeholders to work together and find a solution to the low rainfall and the invasion of armyworms to ensure that hunger does not loom in this year’s farming season.

Farmers should hid to the advice of redeeming pesticides and crop diversification while government ought’s to expedite the construction of dams countrywide to ensure that small scale irrigation is enhanced countrywide to avoid over dependence of rains in the wake of climate change.

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