Dry Spells in Zambia, to last, predicts Met Dept. ……..’crop, livestock, fish farmers be proactive’

Drought affecting Zambia’s staple maize 🌽 🌾 crop

Drought affecting Zambia’s staple maize 🌽 🌾 crop

Dry Spells in Zambia, to last, predicts Met Dept.
……..’crop, livestock, fish farmers be proactive’

21 Feb. Lusaka (Zambia Informer) ——-The dry spells hovering over most parts of Zambia is projected to prolong than was envisaged and crop, fish and livestock farmers in are asked to remain proactive and moot countervailing measures to plug the headwinds, rainfall experts have said.

Famine Early Warning Systems (FewsNet), an Early Warning Systems Network on food insecurity monitoring country (s) specific integrated food security analysis products while alerting on emerging or likely acute food insecurity crisis sees the El Nino enveloping poor rainfall patterns in most Southern African region and cause devastation to the sub-sector.

Spurred by the El Nino, a climate pattern that describes the unusual warming of surface waters in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, the dry spell is projected to rise to above normal sometime towards April this year.

The prolonged spell comes with various reparations to the farming community, already losing their investments in various aspects of the sub-sectors.

The Meteorological Department in its Agrometerogical Bulletin projects variations in the weather pattern for crop, livestock and fish farmers as most parts of the country having recorded
Below-average rainfall and warns of more devastations if countervailing measures are not taken.

Zambia will continue enduring the dry spell; the soil moisture in most parts of southern Zambia remains insufficient and while significant rainfall is likely over the northern and eastern parts of Zambia it foresees further reduction in soil moisture across the country and urges for proactive actions.

There is urgent need to modify agricultural practices as necessary to maximize water utilization, especially in locations with low soil moisture; employ water conservation methods such as mulching, intercropping with cover crops while implementing good soil management techniques.

Affected farmers need to devise sustainable alternative sources of livelihood and income to ensure household food security; harvest and store water for domestic and livestock use; crops that have no chance of recovering, gather the dried stalks and leaves and preserve for animal feed. There is need to estimate the sufficiency of soil moisture content before applying fertilizer.

Livestock and aquaculture farmers are encouraged to ensure the storage of sufficient water and feed for their animals; regularly check on weather updates to predict when to restock or harvest their fish.

This, it is envisaged, will help them maintain water levels and quality in their ponds during the predicted dry spell.

The Bulletin notes that during drier conditions, the farmers should strive to regularly and intensively, scout for pests and diseases that could rummage their crops.

It calls for alertness among the farmers on peculiar incidences on their crops and report any unusual insects or crop diseases to the nearest Agricultural Office. The farmers are further encouraged to use Integrated Pest Management (IPM) for Fall Army Worm infestations.

Integrated Pest Management, arguably entails that Non Chemical practices, including the use of ash, could help tackle Fall Army Worms (FAWs) and reduce the need for chemical pesticides. However, these non-chemical practices (biopesticides) are rarely used because they are too expensive or unavailable.

The devastations caused by the dry spells have alerted various voices of concern with some players asking for high handed investment in irrigations unlike relying on rain-fed-agricultural practices that have been overtaken with the dawn of the climatic changes-likely to remain in place longer than was envisaged.

Smallholder farmers-representing 93 percent of food producers for the nation and exports lament the devastations to their crop and livestock as many lack insurance and seek the Government’s intervention to recover what was ploughed in their field, chiefly maize and livestock, now affected.

“We are hoping the Government could consider compensating the farmers that have lost their crops through the climatic change effects that have reversed all the gains and aspirations for better and profitable farming season,” says Frank Kayula, the farmers chairperson adding: “Many farmers are looking to Government to recover from this loss,”

Assessment of the effects of the El Nino by the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU) and other agricultural and meteorological experts show that two-thirds of the country, the regional maize food basket have been affected drastically with much of the crop drying up for lack of rainfall except for a few selected provinces, says National Coordinator, Gabriel Pollen.

DMMU in its assessment notes that the gravity of the drought was devastating as many crops, chiefly maize has wilted with little or hope for recovery. The disaster agency envisages some recovery relief gesture from donors after it insured the country against the drought.

In 2022, Zambia was compensated US$5.3 million from Africa Risk Capacity of the African Union cooperating partners to compensate for the lost crop after it insured against climatic effects including drought.

The country anticipates similar responses from the World Food Program to mitigate the loss and damage to the crop.

The DMMU, however, calls for more adaptive farming methods and to grow more drought resistant crops including sorghum and millet. Communities are further encouraged to plant more trees that help with the weather patterns and the ecosystems around those areas.

Experts predict that the prolonged drought in Zambia, could reduce the output of maize by 50 percent of the current 3.6 million tons that was predicted to have been harvested in the 2023/24 should if the current dry spell which the nation is experiencing continues.

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