MASVINGO province faces acute food shortages as drought has swept across most parts of the province, leaving many without enough food to see them through to the next harvest, a government official has said.
REPORT BY TATENDA CHITAGU
“We have a huge food deficit because of the low crop yields, the harvest were far from satisfactory.
“We have drought,” provincial Agritex officer Paul Poshai told NewsDay, ominously adding that things were not well.
“There are poor harvests and food assistance is needed. The season started late and ended early. This resulted in reduced area under food crops. The season quality is poor and the food security is precarious.”
The most affected areas, Poshai said, were the low lying districts of Chiredzi, Mwenezi, Gutu and Chivi.
Poshai, however, said he did not have figures of the households that will need food handouts as well as the actual deficit in food security.
The province is susceptible to droughts and many communal farmers, whose livelihoods depend on agriculture, have been facing food shortages for the past decade, making them perennial candidates for food aid.
Meanwhile, Vandalism of infrastructure and poor water supplies could hamper this year’s winter wheat cropping season in Masvingo, with hectarage falling from 5 000 hectares to 161 hectares last year.
Poshai said winter wheat planting should have started on Wednesday, but the province was yet to receive seed and other farming inputs.
“We are still waiting for seed and fertilizer. Seed is very critical because it is difficult to get, while fertilizer can be found,” he said. “Farmers are also not showing interest in growing wheat.”
Poshai said most irrigation schemes had collapsed owing to dwindling water levels and vandalism.
“Water is key, but if it is not available, then we cannot grow anything. Most schemes have dried up and collapsed owing to vandalism, yet these were the growing sites,” he said.
Poshai said most farmers were now shunning wheat production owing to water shortages.
“We have received a drop in the number of farmers who have shown interest,” he said.
“Although this year we have not yet identified them, we had a major drop in winter wheat hectarage, from around 5 000 hectares to 161 last year.”