by Arthur Chigoriwa
CHINHOYI—Millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa are facing hunger due to the current El Nino weather phenomenon that has caused some droughts in several nations.
Most farmers in Zimbabwe’s Mashonaland West province are feeling the impact of this devastating weather pattern, worsened by what they think are changing climatic conditions in the country. A combination of drought and heat waves, which the Meteorological Department attributes to the El Nino phenomenon, has hit most parts of Zimbabwe including the maize-producing belt.
The El Nino that emanated from warming sea-surface temperatures appears to be living up to expectations as it is causing extreme weather patterns in Zimbabwe and beyond. This comes at a time the World Food Program says about 850,000 of the 1,5 million Zimbabweans who are food insecure, urgently need food aid due to poor harvests in previous farming seasons.
Farmers in Mashonaland West believe it’s not only the El Nino phenomenon that is ravaging the region as the climate appears to have shifted, leaving them with no specific time for planting crops.
They say climate change cause by various factors including high carbon emissions, is largely to blame for previous crop failures.
SHIFT IN AGRICULTURE SEASONS
Lion’s Den farmer Getrude Chamboko says the visible shift in seasons is causing havoc in most regions in Zimbabwe.
Her sentiments are echoed by farming expert, Peter Gambara, who says there must be a planting system normally followed by farmers.
Gambara adds that the system should clearly indicate when farmers are supposed to cultivate their fields. “There must be a system in place that enables farmers to know when to prepare, when to plant, what variety to plant and what varieties to produce,” said Gambara.
The Meteorological Department could not be drawn to comment on the farmers’ claims of a slight shift in agricultural seasons saying it needs to conduct a thorough analysis of cropping patterns before issuing statements.
Makonde farmer, Pedzisai Chishiri, says problems faced by most farmers can be addressed through the revival of irrigation schemes.
His views are echoed by Chinhoyi farmer, Joel Kassim, who says it is dangerous to depend on rains for subsistence food production.
METEOROLOGICAL DEPARTMENT BLAMED
Some blame the Meteorological Department for failing to inform the nation about the changes taking place in seasons. Farmer Tagarisa Mberi says this important department is normally predicting wrong rainfall patterns. The Meteorological Department has over the years expressed concern that it is using almost obsolete equipment while operating on a shoe-string budget. In 2014, it failed to secure only $200,000 for cloud seeding at a critical time when rains vanished as crops started tussling.
Some experts have indicated that climate change may be the major cause of recent disasters like floods, which displaced more than 20,000 people in Masvingo province and thousands of villagers in other regions.
Political analyst Takura Zhangazha says Zimbabwe has not done enough to address the issue of climate change that causes droughts, pollution and heat waves.
Many say the once productive state-owned Agricultural Rural Development Authority (ARDA) is a crucial missing link in promoting irrigation and if it is run efficiently it can ensure food security.
ARDA, which runs 21 farming estates countrywide, is working on reviving production and is said to have acquired irrigation equipment at several estates through public-private partnership.