Poor early rainfall a let-down for farmers

The poor rainfall performance recorded in the first month and half of the 2016/2017 rainfall season has delayed cropping activities.

The agriculture ministry says since the start of the rainfall season in October last year to mid-November no significant rains were received. However, by late November to early December, most parts of the country were reported to have received moderate to good showers and cultivation activities have since started.

The availability of basic inputs and services in the major communal crop producing regions were found to be satisfactory and enough to kick start the season. Although there are concerns of seed shortages from the rain-fed crop farmers, the regional agricultural extension offices said available seeds and fertilizers were being dispatched to various centres. Grazing continues to deteriorate in various parts of the country amidst poor rainfall performance in the first two months of the current rainfall season.

However, with good showers received in December, the situation is reported to be improving. Household food security continues to weaken as many households that were able to harvest are reported to have depleted their last season’s poor harvest

. According to most households interviewed, their last season’s poor harvest, which is being supplemented with retail market purchases only lasted at most up to August this year. Most households are now dependent on the market and the government Drought Relief Food Programme for food access. For the past two successive seasons as well as the 2012/2013 agricultural season, the country experienced the worst drought conditions in its history.

Government has been putting more efforts and resources to mitigate the impact of drought, which did not only affect the agriculture sector, but also the national economy as a whole.

An estimated 700 000 (about 32% of the population) has been assisted so far from the drought relief interventions. As the hunger season reaches its peak, household food security continues to weaken as most households that were able to harvest last season are reported to have depleted their last season’s poor harvest and are now dependent on the retail market and the Government Drought Relief Food Programme to access food.

It was reported that last season’s harvest which was being supplemented with market purchases only lasted at most up to August this year leaving households completely dependent on the market and Drought Relief Food Programme to access food. Although the Government Drought Relief Food Programme is taking place in the regions, households in the northern communal crop producing regions argued that the drought relief food takes too long to reach them.