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Farmers facing disastrous ploughing season

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Farmers facing disastrous ploughing season
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The country’s farmers are facing the prospect of reaping little to no harvest from the 2017-2018 ploughing season.

Low levels of rainfall combined with increasingly high temperatures mean the first part of the ploughing season was effectively a write-off.

On Friday, the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security issued a statement cautioning farmers using the Integrated Support Programme for Arable Agriculture Development (ISPAAD) to be wary of soil moisture when engaging in planting activities.

Gripped with uncertainty, Kumakwane farmer, Emma Seloba Wiles echoed the fear of many of her peers when she spoke to Voice Money this week.

‘It’s discerning not to know how much of a yield I am going to get from my maize crops,” Wiles said of the seeds she planted on her five-hectare field in the last days of December 2017.

Instead, Wiles is pinning her hopes on the lab-lab and bean seedlings that have just begun to sprout.

“As for the maize, I have lost all hope. I fear the seeds have now decomposed under the ground because of the heat,” she added solemnly.

Though the ministry’s Principal Public Relations Officer, Geoffrey Pheko insists there is still time for the rains to arrive before the ISPAAD season is over (it ends on January 15th in the Southern region and the 30th in the Northern region), Wiles is reluctant to plough again.

“It is too dry and hot, I doubt if any rain will reverse the situation to make for a better environment for plants to reach full maturity,” she said, adding that in any case she does not have the money to plough maize as it is expensive to do so without assistance from the ministry as the ploughing assistance programme will be closed.

Talking to Voice Money on Monday, Pheko indicated there needs to be at least a two-day continuous downpour for farmers to consider planting before the season ends.

“This moisture could last in the soil for two weeks, which is ample time for crops to germinate and regain the strength they need to grow,” he said optimistically.

Pheko advised farmers to consider drought-resistant varieties that mature faster to avoid the crops being shrivelled by the heat before they mature.

Despite the ministry’s concerns, Department of Meteorological services Chief Meteorologist, Radithupa Radithupa projects rainfall for the season-ending March 2018.

“January is generally a month of the ‘dry spell’ and high temperatures,” he highlighted, noting similar temperatures were recorded in January 2016.

Radithupa urged farmers not to give up hope on the rain as there are still two months left before the rainy season ends.

He advised farmers to consider the ancient tradition of ‘Ditema tsa Bofelo’ loosely translating to the ‘last chance to plough before the rainy season ends’, which he explained maximised on the last rains of the season as temperatures will be lower and therefore the soil retains moisture for longer, facilitating plant growth and ultimately resulting in a good harvest.

The country’s farmers are facing the prospect of reaping little to no harvest from the 2017-2018 ploughing season.

Low levels of rainfall combined with increasingly high temperatures mean the first part of the ploughing season was effectively a write-off.

On Friday, the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security issued a statement cautioning farmers using the Integrated Support Programme for Arable Agriculture Development (ISPAAD) to be wary of soil moisture when engaging in planting activities.

Gripped with uncertainty, Kumakwane farmer, Emma Seloba Wiles echoed the fear of many of her peers when she spoke to Voice Money this week.

‘It’s discerning not to know how much of a yield I am going to get from my maize crops,” Wiles said of the seeds she planted on her five-hectare field in the last days of December 2017.

Instead, Wiles is pinning her hopes on the lab-lab and bean seedlings that have just begun to sprout.

“As for the maize, I have lost all hope. I fear the seeds have now decomposed under the ground because of the heat,” she added solemnly.

Though the ministry’s Principal Public Relations Officer, Geoffrey Pheko insists there is still time for the rains to arrive before the ISPAAD season is over (it ends on January 15th in the Southern region and the 30th in the Northern region), Wiles is reluctant to plough again.

“It is too dry and hot, I doubt if any rain will reverse the situation to make for a better environment for plants to reach full maturity,” she said, adding that in any case she does not have the money to plough maize as it is expensive to do so without assistance from the ministry as the ploughing assistance programme will be closed.

Talking to Voice Money on Monday, Pheko indicated there needs to be at least a two-day continuous downpour for farmers to consider planting before the season ends.

“This moisture could last in the soil for two weeks, which is ample time for crops to germinate and regain the strength they need to grow,” he said optimistically.

Pheko advised farmers to consider drought-resistant varieties that mature faster to avoid the crops being shrivelled by the heat before they mature.

Despite the ministry’s concerns, Department of Meteorological services Chief Meteorologist, Radithupa Radithupa projects rainfall for the season-ending March 2018.

“January is generally a month of the ‘dry spell’ and high temperatures,” he highlighted, noting similar temperatures were recorded in January 2016.

Radithupa urged farmers not to give up hope on the rain as there are still two months left before the rainy season ends.

He advised farmers to consider the ancient tradition of ‘Ditema tsa Bofelo’ loosely translating to the ‘last chance to plough before the rainy season ends’, which he explained maximised on the last rains of the season as temperatures will be lower and therefore the soil retains moisture for longer, facilitating plant growth and ultimately resulting in a good harvest.