|Farmers intensify land preparations|
|Thursday, 20 October 2011 22:00|
FARMERS in most of the country's provinces took advantage of the rains that fell recently to intensify their land preparations ahead of the 2011/12 cropping season.
In a recent tour of the Manicaland province, The Herald established that farmers using conservation farming methods had already started digging planting stations in their fields.
Some were using ox-drawn ploughs to till the land.
Farmers in the Honde Valley and Nyanga districts said they wanted to have all their fields ready before the start of the rainfall season to ease off pressure.
The rains are expected between end of October and mid November.
"We know the time is not yet ripe for us to start planting but we will be watching the developments in the weather closely so that we plant with the first actual rains.
"What we are seeing now could just be what we used to know as "bumharutsva" (rains that precede the start of the actual season) so this is the time to wrap up preparations," Spring Valley farmer Mr Edwin Chitere said.
Mr Chitere has a three-hectare farm between Nyanga and Rusape that he acquired in 2000 under the Government's land reform programme. He was equally busy ploughing his fields.
In Nyanga and Honde Valley the situation was the same as farmers were busy clearing and ploughing their fields.
The farmers' commonest complaint was on the prices of fertilisers and seed, which they say are rather unaffordable.
"We are getting fertilisers at prices ranging from US$30 to US$37 depending on the type of the fertiliser.
"Seed is selling for between US$22 and US$28 for a 10kg pocket depending on the variety while a 25kg pocket of seed is attracting prices ranging from US$48 to US$100 here," one Nyanga farmer who did not want to be named said.
In some retail outlets a 10kg of seed maize is selling for between US$19 and US$24 while the 25kg pocket is also priced at between US$47 and US$90 depending on the variety and performance ratings.
Also, in Mashonaland West province, most smallholder farmers have since started tilling land or are mid-way through while those in wetlands have started planting.
Some of the farmers are still ferrying animal and compost manure to their farms and even burning last season's crop residues in readiness for ploughing.
In Mhondoro, for instance, some farmers in wet areas have already planted and their crops are likely to emerge in the wake of the recent rains.
Similarly, farmers in the Mashonaland East province's Murewa, Mutoko and Mudzi districts have also intensified their preparations as they race to beat the first rains.
Their key focus at the moment is getting the land ready for planting though some are still complaining over delayed payments for grain they delivered to the Grain Marketing Board, which they said was checking their momentum.
In Masvingo province farmers started land preparations as far back as August after some rains that the farmers said signalled the end of winter.
Zaka and Chiredzi districts, for instance, that are traditionally dry, were also fortunate to receive the rains.
This gave the farmers the opportunity to start preparing their lands.
The recent rains that are reported to have covered most parts of the country will naturally add impetus to their preparations.
The Meteorological Department and Agritex have since indicated that the rains did not signal the start of the season so farmers needed not plant.
Manicaland Provincial Agricultural Extension Officer Mr Godfrey Mamhare also advised farmers in his province to shelve the planting of maize and other grains but plant tobacco as the rains could nourish the crop until the onset of the season.
The province, he said, was targeting to plant 9 000ha of tobacco and 300 000ha of maize this coming season and had already done 20 percent of their land preparations for the 2011/12 season before the latest wet spell.
"We received 3 000 tonnes of seed maize, 60 tonnes of sorghum, 25 000 tonnes of basal and another 25 000 tonnes of top dressing fertilisers respectively under the Government's US$45m input facility," said Mr Mamhare recently.