Wimbainashe Zhakata,Farming Correspondent
THE Meteorological Services Department (MSD) has predicted that Manicaland will receive beneficial rains beginning next week amid hope that the wet spell will rejuvenate crops that were showing signs of stress due to the prolonged drought.
Forecaster Mr James Ngoma told The Manica Post in an interview yesterday that Manicaland would receive rains averaging at least 20mm from next week.
“Currently, Nyanga district has received a trace of rains this week and the province will experience an improvement in rainfall from Wednesday next week.
“The rainfall improvement will range from 20mm and above in districts such as Chipinge, Rusape, Mutare and Nyanga while isolated showers will be experienced here and there in other districts. Chances are to slightly improve,” said Mr Ngoma.
The Manicaland farming community – which is largely dominated by resource-poor small-scale rural farmers who depend on rain for crop production for lack irrigation facilities – are beginning to watch helplessly as their crops wilt due to moisture stress.
The province received deficient or scanty rains between October and December 2019.
The rains were then followed by a long dry spell, leaving farmers hoping for beneficial rains to avoid crop losses and food insecurity.
Fears abound among farmers and agronomists that Manicaland harvests could be significantly reduced resulting in food insecurity.
Communities in Natural Regions Three, Four and Five are the most affected having not received a fair share of meaningful rains since the start of the summer season.
The delays in both frequency and severity of rains has also affected the planted areas as farmers who received farming inputs towards the end of last year have left their fields untilled on account of clear skies.
The planting cut-off is usually January 15 of each year.
Cases in point are Buhera, Makoni South, lower parts of Chipinge, Chimanimani, Makoni North, Marange area, Nyanga North and parts of Mutasa which lie in the rain shadow area, and are synonymous for small grains given their ability to endure extreme weather conditions.
Farmers in these areas are urged to plant short-season varieties as the cereal crops often suffer moisture stress due to lack of rain and scorching heat.
In these regions large tracts of land are still untilled as the rains received were scanty, highly variable and unsuitable for crop planting and production.
The inconsistent rains have been compounded by a heatwave which has seen daytime temperatures soaring into the late thirties.
Chief Mutasa said the crop situation in his area was dire.
“The crop situation in our district is not looking good. There is too much sun. Some are planting and others are not.
“The picture is not good as we are still waiting for the rain,” said Chief Mutasa.
Mutasa Agritex agronomist Mr Abraham Matsanura said the crops were stressed and wilting.
“Most of the crops are suffering moisture stress.Only a few farmers are still planting. The crops are still tender and susceptible to fall armyworm because it’s planted late.
“We last received rains on December 10,” he added.