The declaration of a state of disaster by President Robert Mugabe in the face of a devastating drought is welcome although it came too late. The El Niño impact on our farming cannot be underestimated. The lesson of the 2015/16 farming season is that government must make farming a priority.
By Pardon Maguta,Our Reader
We have our glaring mistakes contributing to the hopeless and dangerous food situation we have sunk into.
The first error is failure to effectively make use of water bodies which are on most farms acquired through the fast-track land reform programme. The irrigation facilities on most of these farms have been vandalised and most aluminium pipes taken to make cooking pots and pans. Some of the pipes were simply sold below the real price. It is sad that in some cases water pumps disappeared. The future of our farming lies in irrigation and government must take deliberate steps to maintain all irrigation facilities in the country to make sure farmers can do their farming all year round where possible.
Dams used to play crucial roles supplying irrigation water for wheat production in winter and also during dry spells like the situation we are in right now.
In areas where livestock are already dying, we have problems of scarce pastures and shortage of water for animals to drink.
A close look indicates that in a few years to come most rivers which used to be perennial will be seasonal, flowing only during the rainy season. The water table level will continue to decline. Pastures will continue to diminish, urgent measures must be taken to save our livestock in the future especially in the Matabeleland regions, parts of Masvingo and Manicaland regions.
All this is because our land reform programme has allowed people to settle on most river sources, cutting down trees along river banks and practicing streambank cultivation even if we know it causes siltation. There has been wide use of fire to clear farms and this has resulted in wild fires destroying all pastures and allowing unprecedented water runoff.
Sadly the fast-track land reform in most cases did not leave pasture, lands making it difficult to have grazing lands for the animals.
The way forward is for Agriculture minister Joseph Made to quickly look at ways to make sure grazing lands for our livestock are created in most farming communities to allow restocking in the future. It is prudent that rehabilitation of dilapidated irrigation schemes takes centre stage.
It is valuable that Zanu PF must stop politicking while people starve and focus on the current crisis. People are at war with hunger and it is sad to see those who must be leading the fight against food shortages abandon people to engage in a succession war.
Our energy if well directed, I think in the future we can be food-secure and self-sufficient. Farming is about planning and we can only be successful as an agro-based economy with smart planning.
The bad thing is Zanu PF has taken farming and farms as an electioneering object and project forgetting that it is the source of life for all Zimbabweans. It is my hope that there will significant improvement in the coming farming season in terms of planning and timeous distribution of agricultural inputs to shops and other farming depots. The fight against anthrax and foot-and-mouth diseases will continue in order to save our national cattle herd.
Right priorities can make us food-secure. Our future National Budgets must reflect the importance of farming by making it get a bigger chunk of the money. Such money must be for key agricultural projects and not for politicised seed and implements handouts.