Walter Nyamukondiwa and Fortunate Gora
Mashonaland West Province has managed to put only 143 455 hectares under maize production compared to 183 102 hectares in the same period a year ago, owing to erratic rains.
Some farmers are still planting their crops, although it appears late into the season. Provincial Agritex officer Mrs Edna Shambare said a combination of delayed and erratic rains had affected the 2017/18 summer cropping season.
“The general decline can be attributed to (many) reasons, including the delayed start of the rainfall season in all the districts,” she said. “The poorly distributed rainfall patterns that have been experienced during the first half of the season, draught power and tillage equipment have also been a major challenge this season.”
Mrs Shambare bemoaned the unavailability and inaccessibility of agricultural inputs both on the open market and through Government programmes such as Command Agriculture and the Presidential Inputs Support Scheme.
“Erratic rains and the continued dry spell have seen farmers filling emerging gaps and replanting,” she said. “The poor germination and emergency observed in most fields has necessitated these activities.
“The bulk of the maize crop is at vegetative stage, as it was planted around the third week of December due to the late onset of the rains.” Most of the crops, said Mrs Shambare, were showing general signs of wilting owing to the prolonged dry spell.
There are fears that most crops will fail if rains are not received this week. The most affected areas in Mashonaland West are Ngezi, Chegutu and Sanyati districts. Minister of State for Provincial Affairs for Mashonaland West Cde Webster Shamu expressed concern over the prevailing weather patterns. Addressing a recent zanu-pf provincial inter-district conference, Minister Shamu said there was grave concern from farmers on the situation.
“This has resulted in some farmers planting late,” he said. “Some are still planting and as a result, we have less hectarage during this period compared to last season.” Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union second vice president Mr Berean Mukwende said they were hoping that there would be some rains in the next few days.
“Late planting will still do for farmers in most parts of the province, excluding Zvimba South, parts of Chegutu district and Makonde,” he said. “Crops are showing signs of moisture stress and there are fears that some crops will be severely affected if it does not rain this week.”
Farmers in the province have planted 65 114ha of maize under the Command Agriculture programme.It is hoped that farmers will continue to plant up to the end of the month and increase the hectarage planted to meet the 250 000ha target for the province this season. Though the hectarage put under maize production has declined, the area under cotton has risen due to increased Government support. Tobacco farmers are already reaping and curing the irrigated crop.