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Drought Cripples Zimbabwe's Farming Season

Some farmers have not even started planting their crops.

Some farmers have not even started planting their crops.

Most farmers in Zimbabwe’s maize-growing Mashonaland West province say they are losing hope of getting a good harvest this agricultural season due to the current dry spell, which has turned some fields into dust bowls.

The province has not yet received any significant rains this year owing to the El Nino weather phenomenon set to affect millions of people in Southern Africa and other parts of the world this year.

The farmers say their crops are now wilting due to the scotching heat, dashing all hopes of having a reasonable harvest in the 2015-2016 agricultural season.

This is the general outlook in areas like Mhangura and Makonde where some maize seed did not germinate at all. The crops that were at knee-level are now wilting.

Mhangura farmer, Sabina Jiri, predicts that there will be a devastating drought this year in his area.

His views were echoed by Makonde farmer, Prisca Nyandoro, who added that nothing will change in the fields even if the rains come now since the planting season is now over.

Despite that, he said, any rains now will provide drinking water for villagers and livestock.

Like all the farmers in this region, Nyandoro is now looking for divine intervention. His colleague, Philimon Banda of Lions Den, agrees.

Some farmers though believe that the current dry spell is caused by non-compliance with traditional rain-making rituals.

Some Zimbabweans normally conduct rain-making ceremonies before the start of the rain season. Most of them are conducted at the Njelele Shrine in Matobo, Matabeleland South province, where rain-makers known as wosanas led the traditional ceremonies.

On the other hand, some farmers say people should take heed of the advice given by agronomists, who are calling for the growing of drought tolerant crops like rapoko, sorghum and others.

Farmer Edith Zvarehwanani said such crops are the only way to get a good harvest even during dry seasons.

Several agronomists say midseason droughts normally lead to crop failure. One of them Cain Manzira said, without elaboration, farmers should choose the right crops for their soils.

Weather experts are convinced that climate change is here to stay and farmers should learn new survival methods in order to get good harvests.

Zimbabwe needs more than two million metric tonnes of maize per year for domestic purposes. With the El Nino weather phenomenon gripping Africa and beyond, the future looks bleak for most Zimbabwean farmers.