TRUE to the prediction of the Meteorological Services Department, the rains have started falling in most parts of the country much to the relief of farmers as they step up their preparations for the 2017/18 agricultural season. While we are all happy that the MSD forecast has come true, it is that time again that we need to remind ourselves of the dangers associated with rainfall. Granted, we need the rains for our crop and livestock production, not to mention its importance as drinking water.
Our economy is agro-based, meaning it depends on agriculture, which in turn can only perform well when there is adequate rainfall. Another bumper harvest is expected this season on the back of the good rains and the successful Command Agriculture programme. What worries us the most every year are the reported cases of drowning as people attempt to cross flooded rivers and bridges. It is with this in mind that we want, once again, to remind the people to be very careful when crossing flooded bridges and rivers.
Many people have died after being swept away by the heavy currentwhile attempting to cross rivers. Transporters should never attempt to cross flooded bridges as doing so would be putting the lives of many people at high risk. Buses carrying passengers have been swept away yet the advice that is given every year against crossing flooded rivers and bridges seems to fall on deaf ears. We want to appeal to everyone to desist from crossing flooded rivers and bridges and in cases where bus drivers insist on crossing, the passengers should also insist on disembarking as nothing is worth taking that kind of risk.
The deaths can easily be avoided if people take heed of warnings against crossing flooded rivers and bridges. It is better to be delayed on a journey and wait for the water levels to recede than to risk losing your life. While the dangers of drowning dampen the spirits of many, the advantages of receiving good rains far outweigh the dangers that the rains bring.
It is serious work in the farming areas as the season promises to be a good one again. Most farmers have already done their land preparations and barring delays in the availability of inputs, should start planting very soon. There are other farmers, however, still to harvest their wheat crop because of the problems associated with getting combine harvesters. We appeal to Government to help such farmers remove their crop from the field as it risks being damaged by the rains.
Those that have harvested the crop also face the problem of delivery as they cannot deliver to the nearest Grain Marketing Board depot. There are reports that farmers are being turned away from the GMB depots in their areas and being directed to remote depots. We believe farmers should be allowed to deliver to the GMB depot nearest to them and the GMB must take the responsibility of moving the wheat to other depots that have space.
Otherwise, by turning away farmers, the GMB is simply encouraging them to side market the crop. We do not want farmers to find an excuse to sell the wheat crop to middlemen simply because the GMB cannot accommodate them. The GMB is the top buyer paying the highest price and naturally every farmer would want to sell to the parastatal. We thus appeal to the GMB against turning away farmers, but instead urge it to accept delivery and take the responsibility of moving the wheat to depots that have space. The responsibility of the farmer is to move the wheat from the farm to the to the nearest GMB depot in their area.