Zimbabwe: Worst drought looms

Zimbabwe: Worst drought looms

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ZIMBABWE – The current drought that has hit the country has had a devastating effect, amid revelations that in some areas crops are a total write-off, according to farmer organisations.

The prolonged dry spell threatens to bring about the worst drought the country has ever experienced. So dire is the situation that government is importing 700 000 tonnes of maize to mitigate the effects of the looming food shortage. Zimbabwe has an estimated annual grain requirement of 1,7 million tonnes.

Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president Wonder Chabikwa told the Zimbabwe Independent on Wednesday the situation countrywide is bleak.

“The situation is generally very bad,” Chabikwa said.

“Some crops which were planted when the early rains fell are in a state of permanent wilting. Other crops are in a state of semi-wilting, while others have not even germinated. Although there are hopes of change in weather patterns, it is looking very bad at the moment.”

He said the most affected areas are Matabeleland South, Masvingo, southern Manicaland, southern Midlands, as well as some parts of Mashonaland West, which include Kadoma, Makonde and other parts of Chegutu.

Chabikwa said the situation is being worsened by the excessive heat, which was rapidly removing moisture from both the soil and the crop.

“We are hoping for cooler temperatures by January 10, but everything is pointing to a total write-off,” Chabikwa said.

He said indications by the meteorological office of erratic and low rains up to March could lead to one of the worst droughts the country has ever experienced.

An official at the Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union concurred, indicating that Matabeleland South, Masvingo, Midlands and Manicaland are the most affected by the dry spell.

The official said in these affected areas, the union was looking at a total write-off of crops.

Most farmers in Mashonaland East, the ZFU official said, have planted late which could have an adverse effect on the state of the crops.

The World Food Programme (WFP) recently announced that about 1,5 million Zimbabweans needed urgent food aid due to the famine.

The drought has been blamed on the El Nino weather phenomenon, which results in high temperatures and low rainfall in most parts of Africa.

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