Normal rains relief for Zim but…

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THunderstorm
THunderstorm

Farai Mabeza

Good news is what Zimbabweans farmers would want to hear and reports of normal to above normal rains starting next month is a welcome relief for many in the country.

However, according to the metrological office there is high risk of a number of rainfall hazards such as flash flooding, violent storms/hailstorms, tropical cyclones and floods in low lying areas at the onset of the upcoming season.

Detrimental as these occurrences can be this news brings relief to the eager ears of many Zimbabweans. With livestock and crop production, tourism and energy all sweating under two years of drought any news of rain is good news at the moment.

Zimbabweans would be aware of the dangers posed by weather calamities having witnessed the consequences of floods in areas such as Muzarabani that come with almost every decent rain season. The destruction that came with Cyclone Idai is still fresh in people’s memories.

However, the weight of two years of drought has put enormous pressure on people’s livelihoods and on the national economy.

Thus, the announcement by weather experts that the next season will be characterized by normal to above normal rains will be the best news that the weary nation would have had in a long time.

“October rains are generally erratic for rain-fed agriculture; more effective rains are expected from November into December 2020 in most places,” the met office said in the seasonal forecast.

During the preceding season, prolonged intra-season dry spells resulted in many false starts. High temperatures were common during the season with some record highs recorded in October and December.

Zimbabwe wants to be food self-sufficient by 2023 and to have a US$8 billion agriculture economy by 2025. With the bulk of the farmers being smallholder producers dependent on rain fed agriculture, this dream is under threat from climate change induced weather inconsistencies.

The normal to above normal rains gives implications of a good season with a good harvest and government is urging people to take advantage and where possible increase area under cropping and go for high yielding varieties of suitable crops.

The forecasters were, however, careful enough to throw in the caveat “in the event that the (rainfall) distribution is good” for the season to be described as good.

But for the farmers the rains cannot come soon enough. One of the most depressing sights is the sight of smallholder or peasant farmers looking up to a clear and barren sky in anticipation of rain which is nowhere in sight.

There are more challenges to be expected and Zimbabweans should be ready to respond. 

“Violent storms, prolonged dry spells, flash floods and tropical cyclones cannot be ruled out as the season progresses,” the met office cautioned in its forecast.

Water logging of crops is a possibility and thus soil conservation technologies such as construction contours and storm drains will need to be done.

High rainfall may mean increases in livestock disease and therefore farmers should stock up on dipping chemicals and ensure consists tent dipping.

Filling up of the large dams and overflowing of the small dams are important for the energy sector and could allow for maximum generation of electricity.

“There is need to continue with water harvesting programmes and conservation agriculture practices which have been perfected over the dry seasons,” the met office said.

The policies of small dam construction, borehole drilling/deepening, rehabilitation of irrigation schemes, conservation and protection of wetlands should continue.

The country is also home to a number of water based tourism activities with the largest ones being in areas such as Victoria Falls and Kariba.

The forecast for the region is also favourable.

According to the 24th Annual Southern Africa Regional Climate Outlook Forum the bulk of SADC is likely to receive normal to above-normal rainfall for most of the period October to December (OND) 2020. The January to March (JFM) 2021 period is expected to have normal to above normal rainfall for the entire region.

With mother nature appearing to be smiling on the drought prone region this season the onus is now on policymakers and farmers to do their part to make sure that a good season does not go to waste. 

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