Farmers and community leaders in Matabeleland have said the 2016/2017 agricultural season looks bleak, as livestock continue to perish due to lack of water and shortage of pastures.
BY MTHANDAZO NYONI
The region was early this year ravaged by an El Nino-induced drought, whose effects continue up to today, as livestock is still in poor health.
“Even if the rains come, we might find ourselves failing to plough and ultimately harvesting nothing. This is because we don’t have seed, especially for small grains like sorghum, millet as well as maize. Villagers usually depend on recycled seed, but this time, because of drought they don’t have any,” headman, Mcetshwa of Tsholotsho North under Chief Ndabezitha Mathuphula told Southern Eye during a recent visit.
“Our livestock is succumbing to drought and the ones that are still trying to survive won’t be able to pull an ox-drawn plough. They are very thin and in poor health.”
Most villagers in the region use cattle for ploughing, as they cannot afford to hire tractors.
A Tsholotsho villager, Nkosiyabo Ncube said drought has left villagers crippled and ill-prepared for the 2016/17 agricultural season. He urged the government to intervene before the situation deteriorates.
A village head under Chief Tshitshi in Plumtree, Mzingeleni Dube said many villagers have lost their cattle to drought and were now ill-prepared for the farming season.
“We have lost quiet a number of cattle in this province. As such, we wonder how we will manage to do farming this time around,” he said.
Small Grains Producers’ Association chairperson, Basil Nyabadza recently revealed that farmers across the country were ill-prepared for the 2016/2017 agricultural season, as seed was not readily available to them.
He said the availability of small grain seed across the board was a challenge due to a number of factors, chief among them being lack of funding to seed houses and late payments.
Nyabadza said the small grain seed bank “is nearly empty and the situation is not pleasing”.
Matabeleland South livestock specialist, Hatitye Muchemwa said the condition of animals was dire.
“The condition of these animals is very bad and they can’t even be able to pull a plough. They are very weak,” he said.
“Some of them are suffering from fatigue because of heat. The hectarage for cropping this time would be less compared to last year.”
Muchemwa said villagers should maintain their animals through supplementary feeding.
He urged them to mechanise or practice conservation agriculture.