Imaginary bumper harvest

That Zimbabwe received some of the best rains in recent years in the 2013-14 season cannot be denied. But the possibility of the most plentiful yields in a long time does not necessarily make this year a good year for local farmers.

Paul Bogaert
Paul Bogaert

This means the government must move with caution. Already, the Provincial Affairs Minister for Masvingo, Kudakwashe Bhasikiti, has announced that food aid will stop. Also, while a crop situation report has not been publicised, Minister of Agriculture Joseph Made last week was boasting of a coming bumper harvest.

While the first round of the crop and livestock assessment might have been completed, it is important to note that there is no precise assessment of yields themselves. In effect, the projected bumper harvest is a mere forecast. Made has in the past made similar forecasts that have turned out to be wrong.

Of course, yields are bound to increase, but that does not necessarily mean that there won’t be communities, particularly in perennially arid regions, that need food assistance. Even during those years when the climate used to favour Zimbabwe so much, there still remained areas that failed to realise meaningful harvests.

And while the rains have been fair, many other factors have militated against sustainable yields. These include shortages and abuse of vital inputs, lack of draught power due to widespread poverty, urban migration and many others. Flooding has destroyed crops in Masvingo and Tsholotsho.

Victims of the Tokwe Mukosi dam wall burst, caused by heavy rains, are still in the open and the humanitarian community has been overwhelmed to the extent of pulling out. The little food reserves of the affected communities were also destroyed by the floods, leaving them facing real disaster.

In addition, some crops have been ravaged by the marauding armyworm, especially in Masvingo. The net result is that there will still be people who need food assistance this year. This calls for the government and other stakeholders to start making plans to minimise the effects of hunger on vulnerable communities, rather than basking in the imagined glory of a bumper harvest.

Post published in: Editor: Wilf Mbanga

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