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Dry spell threatening to cripple this year’s harvest

John Bhasera
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THE next coming few days are critical for the crops following the prolonged dry spell threatening to cripple this year’s harvest.

Despite projections of normal to above normal rainfall in both the first and second-half of the 2021/2022 cropping season, farmers now fear for the worst should the dry spell persist.

It has not been raining for more than three weeks now in some parts of the country and as such crops are suffering moisture stress.

In an interview after the tour of the revived Mayorca irrigation scheme in Ward five, Sessombe Village in Zhombe, Midlands province, Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development permanent secretary Dr John Bhasera said crops in most areas urgently need rain.

The 76-hectare irrigation scheme was rehabilitated under the Smallholder Irrigation Revitalisation Programme (Sirp) by the Government in partnership with the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) to the tune of US$9,4 million.

The irrigation has 76 members who have a hectare each.

Dr Bhasera said he had toured Mashonaland East, Masvingo and the Midlands provinces and the crops were not looking good because of the prolonged dry spell.

 “The crops in the three provinces have started wilting and the situation is reported to be the same in other provinces that have not received rains for a long time.

We are hopeful and still positive that it will rain in the next few days so that we have another good harvest,” he said.

Dr Bhasera said there is however, a need to develop irrigation schemes to counter the effects of climate change such as the prolonged dry spell being experienced now.

 He said more farmers should cultivate crops under irrigation as opposed to rely on dryland farming which is vulnerable to the vagaries of weather.

“We want to continue rehabilitating more irrigation schemes so that many farmers grow crops under irrigation.

We have 450 irrigation schemes with a total of 26 000 ha across the country. We need all these schemes to be up and running so that many of our farmers can grow crops under irrigation,” said Dr Bhasera.

He said farmers at irrigation schemes can grow crops throughout the year as opposed to just waiting for the rainy season.

“We need to get our agriculture right as the success of the agricultural sector is key to achieving Vision 2030.

We need to ensure that the business models across irrigation schemes are sustainable. We are on a tour to inspect progress on Sirp which the Government started in 2018. We are in this programme in partnership with the International Fund for Agriculture Development,” said Dr Bhasera. – Chronicle