The Sunday News
SO, the weather man is predicting a relatively good rainfall season this year. That is good news for farmers in a long time and one prays that the prediction will come to pass. We need the rains and we need them in abundance, our soil has been thirsty for some time and it is beginning to cause strain on our few water bodies which are themselves mostly silted and reduced in capacity.
The last few seasons have not been favourable especially in the southern part of the country which is generally a drier region of the country.
My farm is serviced by two main rivers, that is Simukwe and Shashani and both these rivers did not flow in the previous rainfall season and you can imagine the water stress that we are experiencing right now. In fact, most farmers, including myself, had to relocate our animals to other farms with better grazing and drinking water.
This is not without challenges as the owners of those farms are not keen to take in animals for relief grazing and that’s understandable as they are trying to protect their own animals. So to me and I know to most farmers any whisper about a possible good rainy season is welcome and appreciated because the situation is hovering between catastrophic and hopeless.
However, as I traverse the country in my line of work, I have noticed that there are people that still fail to harvest even one bucket of maize despite receiving good rains. I remember one year as I drove from Lupane to Nkayi via Fighting Road, I could not help but notice the disparity between crop performances in adjacent fields. Some fields had thriving crops definitely as a result of good agricultural practices while other fields had struggling and visibly neglected crops. Some fields even lay fallow.
It is probably correct to conclude that some villagers are now opting to just sit and wait for food handouts from either Government or non-governmental organisations instead of working the land. This is called dependence syndrome. I wish to implore farmers to work the land and produce food for their families. We should not just let the little rains go to waste but use it to produce food for the nation. There is a very direct relationship between household food security and the general performance of the beef production enterprise.
A food insecure household is invariably unable to take care of its herd. It is unlikely that a family struggling to put food on the table will have means to buy supplementary feeds for its cattle. However, a food secure family will most certainly be able to even sell some bit of surplus and buy feeds for the animals. Again, families that grew substantial amounts of cereal will have abundant cereal stover which they can preserve and feed animals during the lean season.
I therefore urge all our farmers to work the land and plant reasonably large pieces of land instead of just planting a few narrow strips which cannot feed the family. Laziness in crop production will certainly affect your livestock situation especially if you have to rely on crop stover for supplementary feeding.
In the same vein I would like to encourage community members to repair their water bodies so that they can be able to harvest and store water for their animals. I know for a fact that some villages have small weirs which just need sprucing up and strengthening of the wall and this can be done without external assistance. Even if it means scooping the small weir or dam, community members should be able to come together and hire equipment to do that. There is a lot of earth moving equipment these days, with proper negotiations farmers can get a favourable deal and fix their water bodies.
A heavily silted dam will not hold enough water for our animals and hence the need to do something about it. In short farmers need to prepare to work the land for both their animals and themselves. They also need to make sure they have their water harvesting bodies fixed so that we do not lose this precious liquid when it finally comes.
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