Elita Chikwati Agriculture Reporter
The condition of crops and livestock has continued to deteriorate despite the recent rains received in most parts of the country.
Some areas such as Mashonaland East, West and Central have patches that have a good crop.
Zimbabwe Farmers Union director, Mr Paul Zakariya said development of crops mostly depended on moisture and in most areas evaporation had increased because of the high temperatures.
“The rains were delayed by two months and by end of December most farmers were still planting.
“Some crops and livestock had recovered from the drought, but are now showing signs of stress. Some farmers in areas with moisture are top dressing their crops while others cannot apply fertilisers due to the hot weather,” he said.
Mr Zakariya said any crop that is still below the knee height had low chances of maturing.
On livestock he said cattle had continued to die as a result of drought.
“Government has been urging farmers to destock, but there are few takers of the livestock.
Who will buy the bad conditioned animals? Obviously farmers will not realise any meaningful profits from the livestock,” he said.
Some livestock farmers are receiving assistance from the Food and Agriculture Organisation in terms of stock feeds.
The farmers complained that Government should have made plans soon after the El Nino phenomenon was forecast to reduce casualties.
“We understand Government is cash strapped but in future, plans should be made well ahead.
“There should be a disaster management in place to assist farmers during famines. Not all farmers can afford to come up with mitigation strategies.
“Government should continue mobilising stakeholders for assistance,” he said.
Zimbabwe National Farmers Union vice president, Mr Garikayi Msika said the situation in most areas was dire and little was expected from this season.
“The situation is dire and has been made worse by the heatwave. The temperatures are so high that in some areas animals that had recovered are now affected.
“Some pastures had recovered due to the recent rains but the high temperatures have resurfaced,” he said.
Division of Livestock Production and Development director, Mr Bothwell Makodza said the showers received recently in the drier parts of the country had improved water availability and pastures in some parts of Matabeleland.
“The showers we received recently in the drier parts of the country have had a bit of significance in Matabeleland South and Matabeleland North in that we have had a decline in cattle deaths. We will continue monitoring the situation as climate change is upon us,” he said.
Some farmers are now feeding their wilting crops to livestock.
Mr Makodza said while crop residues were a good substitute for grazing, farmers needed to be careful to avoid poisoning.
“Crop residues are a good substitute for grazing. Farmers can do so, but not immediately after applying Urea and Ammonium Nitrate as this has a poisonous effect.
“There is also need to make silage especially if one is a dairy farmer. Farmers can also buy some ready made feeds and supplements, or fatten animals,” he said.