At least 70 percent of crops in Matabeleland South are wilting and reservoir water levels are at their lowest, agriculture experts have said.
Yet President Robert Mugabe’s government has not held a high-level meeting to discuss drought relief for farmers even as the Met Department forecasted — correctly as it turned out — that this season’s rains would fall short.
While Mugabe has declared the drought a national disaster, he faces growing criticism for failing to shield farmers from deepening hardship.
In Matabeleland South, especially Umzingwane, one of the districts most affected by the El-Nino-induced drought, the district only managed to produce three month’s supply of grain, according to an Agriculture Extension system (Agritex) official.
“All the crops that were planted in November, December and early January were a complete right-off, the majority of that crop was a failure,” acting district agriculture extension officer, Thelani Ncube, told journalists during a tour of the district.
“And the crops that were planted in January, we were hoping we would get something from that crop, now it is at temporary wilting stage. Now we forget the rains were short; it’s been 20 days without rain.
“Our estimated production is far, far less than the requirement. If calculated, we are going to have a total cereal production of 2 001 tonnes against a requirement of 6 928, which will only last three-and-a-half months and 10 000 of our people are in trouble.”
Ncube said though smaller grains such as sorghum might have had a chance to survive the drought, most households were sceptical about planting the small grain.
“We have two wards that are farming small grains and from that, we are saying at least they will harvest something, sorghum,” he said.
“The whole district only put 305 hectares of sorghum, out of 15 000 hectares of all our crops. For maize they did 10 635, and of this, we are talking about 70 percent right-off.”
This also comes as the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) projected that at least 32 000 children in Zimbabwe will have acute malnutrition in 2016 as a result of the drought being experienced in the country.
“As for irrigation, the only irrigation that has done well is Mzingathini, its about 32 hectares and 81 beneficiaries out of a district population of about 62 990, according to ZimVac,” Ncube said.
“The other two irrigation schemes were rehabilitated late and the late crops are not good, the other irrigation schemes are still under rehabilitation with the support of a Brazilian aid (Food For Africa).
“This year we had a poor start to our rainfall season, the season should be starting around 22 November but this year we had a false start ... followed by a series of dry spells up to January 26, and we thought that it had been over for the year.” daily news