Katima Mulilo — Crop farmers in the Zambezi Region have provisionally suspended the ploughing and planting of their crop fields due to a sustained dry spell characterised by a lack of rainfall and low ground moisture.
They say they are tired of the wait-and-see game as since the start of the year it has not rained - as a result the land is dry and they are left hopeless and in desperation.
A virtually dry November and rainless first half of December did not help the situation. Although there was a glimmer of hope when it started raining in mid-December, which encouraged farmers to start tilling their land, this was however short-lived.
Speaking to New Era, one of the leading farmers in Zambezi Region, Alfred Tendekule from Samudono, says he has suspended all ploughing due to the absence of rains as he, like most subsistence farmers, relies on rain-fed agriculture, which depends on seasonal rains.
"As I am speaking to you I am in the bush, but I have sent the workers home as we have ceased ploughing as the land is very dry because it is not raining. I am just here looking after the cattle," said Tendekule.
He added that at the same time last year there was hope because it was raining, but now he has lost hope of it raining, which is why he has stopped ploughing.
"On the 8th of January last year when I measured the amount of rain in my field it was 28mm, but today (yesterday) when I measured it was zero," lamented the subsistence farmer.
"I was standing in the field I planted, on the 5th, but there is no hope that it will germinate, because the soil is dry," he said.
Asked why he would give up if it has only been three days, he said: "If the fields I planted on the 1st, the 2nd and the 3rd of January have not geminated what will make this one germinate?"
Tendekule also stated that most farmers in the area have stopped planting and have just stored their seeds, as they are fearful they will just be wasted if they are planted. He also stated that seeds they planted in December have also scarcely geminated.
"The way things are, I can say there will be no harvest this year. Maybe for those who are able to irrigate their fields - as for us who depend on the rain there is no hope," he said.
Another farmer Chika Kolokwe, from Muyako in Katima Rural Constituency, shared the same sentiments. He says he planted up to three hectares but his maize has also not geminated because it has not rained.
"I planted my maize on the 2nd of December, but up until now it has not geminated - we have run out of ideas, hunger is going to kill us, I don't know how the government is going to help us."
However, Ignatius Simbuwa from Maunga is one of the lucky farmers whose maize has geminated.
He says he planted his seeds three weeks back and luckily it rained at that time.
"My maize has geminated and it is at an early stage - hopefully if it will rain in the next two weeks, it might survive," he said.
He also acknowledged that in areas where it did not rain farmers have indeed been left hopeless - he however has not stopped planting neither, has he given up. "I am still sowing because I am hopeful that it might rain," he said.