GOVERNMENT has come up with a major strategy to minimise the effects of erratic rains expected in the 2018/19 agricultural season, Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement Minister Perrance Shiri said yesterday.
The grand plan, he said, includes expediting installation of irrigation infrastructure as well as getting farmers to broaden their range of crops to include small grains in all farming sub-sectors and regions.
A 2018/19 seasonal rainfall forecast presented by Government last week shows Zimbabwe expects to receive normal rains with a bias towards below normal throughout the season.
As such, there is a high possibility the country could experience an El Nino phenomenon.
Minister Shiri said “pre-emptive action” was needed to avert a potential disaster.
“While Government is noticing some improvement in the continued national food security status since the adoption of Command Agriculture strategy, we need, however, to keep our sight firmly glued to the dashboard so that the food security vehicle does not veer off the road,” he said.
“Unfortunately our meteorological sensors are giving a warning to indicate the possibility of an El Nino, which suggests that the nation may not be able to produce adequate grain in the 2018/19 summer season. Therefore, we need to take pre-emptive action going forward to avert the negative effects of this potential disaster.”
Minister Shiri said a deliberate national programme to increase production of small grains would minimise the impact of the weather phenomenon.
Small grains tend to thrive under harsh conditions.
Said Minister Shiri: “As part of the grand strategy, various measures are going to be instituted. A2 farmers shall be required to grow at least 10 hectares of sorghum or mhunga for the larger A2 holdings while the smaller holdings are expected to grow at least two hectares of either crop. These must be the human edible forms of either sorghum or mhunga varieties. The communal and AI sub-sectors must grow at least 0,5 hectares of these small grains.”
He said installation of irrigation infrastructure would be accelerated.
“There is need for the nation to unleash a blitz on repairs and installation of irrigation infrastructure wherever water is available both on surface and ground sources,” Minister Shiri said.
“While each farmer knows best when to plant and when not to, it is advisable for us to stagger our plantings in order to minimise our losses since the rain distribution pattern for the season is likely to be highly variable,” he said.
“To plant a third of our crops with the onset of effective rains, a third in mid-December and the rest soon after Christmas may be a strategy worth considering. This would help farmers to spread their risk over the rainfall season. Such an approach has been seen to work in the past.
“Lastly, I wish the agriculture sector well in the 2018/19 season, which is already upon us with tobacco planting having already started.”