Elita Chikwati and Andrew Muvishi
Crops and pastures have improved markedly following rains that have been received in most parts of the country in the past week.
Farmers said crops that had not permanently wilted had recovered and were now in good condition.
Livestock producers were now relieved that they now had enough drinking water and pastures.
Dam levels have started rising.
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union (ZCFU) president Mr Wonder Chabikwa said maize and dryland tobacco that had been affected by the long dry spell had started recovering in most parts of the country.
“Current rains have brought many positives and huge relief and great hope for the season to us farmers,” he said.
“Dryland tobacco has recovered tremendously for those farmers who played their role and kept weeds off.
“Some of the early maize crop, where both weed and pest control was done, has improved from near permanent wilting point. Middle and late planted maize and soyabean crops are benefiting.”
Mr Chabikwa advised farmers to keep their crops free of weeds and pests.
“To our Government, we lobby for cloud seeding whenever we get the suitable clouds,” he said. “The pregnant clouds are plenty these days. Naturally, and using all means, we need an extended rainfall season.
“Livestock is now enjoying abundant grazing and water, but there is need to control tick-borne diseases.”
Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU) president, Mr Abdul Nyathi, said some farmers were still planting, but hoped that if the rains extend to next month, they may get good yields.
“Crops are seriously late because the season is halfway through. As we are talking now, they are planting. The hectarage is lower than expected. If the rains continue up to March we may salvage something for our country. If the rains continue, to about mid-March, the maize harvest will improve.
“Grass is now available and we hope by March it will be tasselling. Once it tassels we are assured that come winter, it would harden and we will have enough grazing to take us to the next season.
“Rivers have started flowing, which was our real worry. If rivers start flowing, we will have enough water for both crops and livestock. The current rains have given us a lot of relief.”
Zimbabwe Indigenous Women Farmers Association Trust president Mrs Depinah Nkomo said crops in most parts of the country were in good condition following the recent rains.
“The crops have recovered and most farmers took advantage of the moisture to apply top dressing fertiliser,” she said.
“If the rains continue, we are going to get some meaningful yields. Pastures that had started wilting have also started recovering and hope our cattle will have enough for grazing.”
Mashonaland East provincial agriculture extension officer Mr Leonard Munamati said the crops were in a fair condition.
“Generally, the crop condition is now fair due to the rains,” he said. “We encourage farmers to take advantage of the rains to apply top dressing fertiliser.”
Department of Veterinary Services chief director Dr Josphat Nyika said they expected the condition of livestock to improve due to the recent rains.
“With these rains, we also expect poverty deaths to decline,” he said. “However, rains also mean that we should expect more anthrax outbreaks, therefore, farmers should continue to vaccinate their cattle against anthrax.
“The department has vaccines to see us through to the second quarter of 2020. On tick-borne diseases, there has been an improvement in the supply of chemicals. Dipping should increase further because the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development has released funds.”
Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) corporate communications manager Mrs Marjorie Munyonga said dam levels were rising.
“As at February 13, 2020, the national dam level average had risen to 50,4 percent up from 49,6 percent on February 6, 2020,” she said.
“The national dam level average, however, remains way below the 69 percent normally recorded during this time of the year. The dam levels are set to continue improving as more inflows are expected into the dams in the coming few days.”
Significant increases were recorded in dams in Masvingo Province, followed by dams in Matabeleland South and Matabeleland North.
“Tugwi-Mukosi, the country’s largest inland water body gained 2,3 percent, while Mutirikwi, the second largest water body, recorded a 1,6 percent increase in water levels,” said Mrs Munyonga.
“Significant increases in water flows have also been noted in the major rivers of Odzi, Pungwe, Musengezi, Runde, Save, Limpopo and the Zambezi.”
The Meteorological Services Department said rains were expected to continue during the weekend in Mashonaland Provinces, Harare, Midlands, and northern parts of Manicaland.