16 February 2014

Zimbabwe: Farmers Expect Bumper Harvest

Photo: The Herald
A woman in the field.

MOST communal farmers around the country are expecting a bumper harvest this year following heavy rains that have been pounding the country for the past four weeks.

In the past few years, low to erratic rainfall patterns resulted in poor harvests in many dry regions.

A survey carried out by The Standard last week showed a different scenario as crops were doing well. Most of the maize -- the staple crop -- was at between soft and hard dough stages.

However, excessive rainfall in some parts of the country has resulted in flooding, causing serious water-logging in the fields.

Communal farmers who spoke to The Standard last week said despite flooding, most of the maize crop was in good condition and they expected a bumper harvest this year.

"My maize is doing very well, especially the crop that we planted in November. I am happy because we have a healthy crop," said Chigwa Rugubhe, a farmer in Mashunye Village in Shurugwi.

He however said the persistent rains had taken toll on the crops that were planted in December.

"The heavy rains have been devastating on the crops that were planted late. We are experiencing water logging in our fields and crops have turned purplish due to water logging," said Rugubhe. "But generally, we are going to have a bumper harvest."

Communal farmers in Bikita said they were also expecting a bumper harvest -- the biggest since the early 90s.

Stanley Shonhe from Ward 10 in Bikita West said communities in his area were excited about the expected harvests.

Both crops and livestock were in prime condition, he said, and it was clear 2014 would be a year of "full stomachs".

"We are all very excited and happy with the rains. The rivers are running full and the grass is green everywhere. Our livestock is enjoying good pastures and our crops are very healthy. We are expecting a very good harvest this year," said Shonhe. "Our only little worry is that the rains are not giving us enough time to remove weeds but still, we can't complain. Some of our crops are choking from weeds but we are trying our best to work on the fields during the short breaks that the rains are giving us. We are all expecting bumper harvests."

Zvondiwa Chinanga, former councillor for Ward 32, also in drought-prone Bikita West, said the rains received this year had brought back memories of decades ago when bumper harvests were the norm in the region.

"We have not seen anything like this since the early 90s. Yes, there have been years where we have received plenty but destructive cyclonic rains, but they did not bring any harvests; in fact, they brought us hunger," said Chinanga. "But this year the gods have smiled at us. If everyone had fertiliser, then it would have been an even much bigger harvest, but still, this year is going to go down in recent history as a year of bumper harvests."

The crop situation is also encouraging in Chimanimani District in Manicaland Province where communal farmers had become used to growing drought-resistant small grains. Most of them planted maize this year because of the good rains.

Chimanimani Ward 20 councillor, Itai Chimhete predicted a bumper harvest this year.

He said areas such as Nyanyadzi, Gudyanga, Tonhorai, Changazi and Birchenough Bridge had a healthy maize crop, unlike in previous years where they only grew drought-resistant crops because the areas received low rainfall.

"The rains have been good this year and we are expecting nothing short of a bumper harvest," he said. "Even people without plots in irrigation schemes will definitely get enough food this year."

Farmers in the communal areas of Mutasa District in Manicaland concurred, saying the crops they planted earlier had already matured.

One farmer, Rebecca Nyakatsapa said she was already harvesting fresh maize cobs from her fields.

"We have started eating green maize cobs and fresh sugar beans from our smaller fields that we planted earlier," she said.

In the Midlands District of Mberengwa, most areas have however been affected by the incessant rains.

Hunger looms in most parts of the district, particularly Buchwa where crops have been affected due to leaching that comes as a result of the heavy rains.

Deputy Minister of Agriculture, David Marapira yesterday said the crop situation was "excellent" following the rains received around the country.

"The crops have enough moisture and have not been negatively affected by the rains we have received," he said. "Many provinces have well and average crops with the exception of areas in region four were farmers planted late."

He added that crops in some parts of Masvingo, Bulawayo, Manicaland and Midlands provinces still needed top dressing fertiliser.

Marapira however said that, even though the current crop situation was pleasing, he could not comment on the expected harvest.

"Let's talk about the harvest at the end of March," he said.

Zimbabwe, which was the region's breadbasket, was reduced to a basket case following the 2000 land seizures which saw white commercial farmers losing their land.

Since then, the country has been relying on importing food from countries such as Zambia and South Africa.

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