Now that the summer cropping season is fast approaching, farmers need to be prepared, ready to turn the wheel and also to cushion themselves against possible climate shocks.
guest column: Peter Makwanya
Whenever we talk about how far the farmers can protect themselves against the changing climate, we tend not to factor in the aspect of adaptation.
Farmers need to adapt to the changing climate so that they can devise ways of countering agricultural-related challenges.
Agricultural activities are not constant as they would appear in the minds of the farmer during planning.
When farmers are visualising their aspirations, everything would appear in a straight line, but in practice, the graph will not be constant due to the related challenges.
In this regard, it is important that farmers sufficiently familiarise themselves with their operational settings or environments.
This would spell out the farmers’ competencies in areas such as ranching, horticulture, dairy, agro-forestry, crop production, citrus farming, bee-keeping, among a host of many.
A number of farmers, be they small or large-scale, venture into farming simply because it would be during the farming season, with no clear planning, objectives or goals.
Farmers need to position themselves according to the kind of environments in which they operate so that they would anticipate the nature of climate shocks they can encounter and the adaptive actions they need to take.
In this regard, the best possible way is to develop mechanisms, which would help them to adapt to the changing climate.
Planning is also a major aspect as farmers should not wait for the onset of rains to buy inputs, equipment or machinery or draught power.
Above all, farmers need to have adequate knowledge and sufficient command of the prevailing weather patterns for sustainable adaptation practices.
These would enable them to invest in crops suitable for their climatic conditions and physical landscapes. All these aspects can help the farmers to prepare.
Operating in the same environment for a long time equips the farmers with appropriate skills for long-term planning.
This also calls upon thorough and exhaustive knowledge of their soils, what needs to be done and how it should be done.
Many farmers view it as normal to apply fertiliser or manure without seeking guidance and expertise. Activities like measuring the soil’s acidity or alkalinity levels and application of lime, are important procedures which would enable farmers not to operate in the dark.
Although resources are difficult to come by, it is significant to plan for the unforeseen changes so that they will be able to work out their adaptation strategies.
Maintaining the nutrient and land ecological balance should be a priority for every farmer. This also includes the competitiveness of the crop on the market, which will help it to fare exceedingly well even when the market becomes flooded. It is also important for the plant growth in order to achieve efficiency.
These days, green farming and technologies which is heralding the new agricultural revolution, green manure, organic fertilisers, crop rotation, controlled grazing, smart farming and mixed farming technologies help to improve soil fertility.
The critical and significant skill that the majority of farmers overlook is that of lack of documentation, that is the inability to keep records or information related to farming activities.
Each crop, activity or expenditure, should have its own inventory. This is quite fundamental and sustainable in terms of monitoring and evaluation.
Reading is also significant and should help to keep farmers well-informed and abreast with new crop varieties, changing weather patterns, early warning systems, new farming methods and technologies.
But the death of reading culture has not only affected school-going children or adults, but has also crept into the well-informed and farmers as well.
Quite a number of farmers are no longer into knowledge seeking or reading farming literature and understanding their own environment too.
This is important in order to avoid speculative behaviour which is threatening to destroy their mind-sets.
By critically studying their environment, farmers would be able to understand the climate there is at a particular time and then link their farming activities and what affects them to the environmental changes and requirements.
In a changing climate, farmers should know about water conservation, maintaining the ecological balance, establishing carbon banks and saving biodiversity.
These are versatile and trailblazing adaptation practices necessary for sustainable futures.
Drip irrigation kits are also necessary in their own right.
Farmers also need to diversify and widen their agricultural horizons, hence they need not specialise on one cropping system or single farming mechanisation.
As farmers practise horticulture, for instance, they also need to practise small-scale dairy, pen fattening, poultry and piggery.
In this regard, manure from cattle, poultry and piggery would be used to fertilise horticultural plants, while money from horticultural activities would be used to buy cattle feeds, poultry and piggery feeds in a sustainable value chain.
Peter Makwanya is a climate change communicator. He writes in his capacity and can be contacted on: firstname.lastname@example.org