Worse drought in 45 years predicated in Zambezi

22 Feb 2015 09:00am
By Faith Sankwasa
KATIMA MULILO, 22 FEB (NAMPA) - Farmers in the Zambezi Region are bracing themselves for a drought probably worse than 1970, as crops wither due to poor weather patterns in the area.
During field visits, Nampa observed that maize and sorghum fields at some villages in Kongola, Sibbinda, Sachinga, Kaenda, Makanga, Bito, Kasheshe and Kalimbeza areas have badly withered or have simply stopped growing.
According to some small-scale farmers, the sporadic rainfall and high weather temperatures will likely translate into food insecurity just like in 1970 when harvests were recorded as the poorest ever.
One of those affected, 68-year-old Margret Muchana, a pensioner at the Makanga village south of Katima Mulilo, told this agency on Thursday that her crops are drying up at a worrying pace.
She is worried about how she will survive.
Muchana owns 18 hectares of land on which she ploughed maize in December 2014.
“My monthly pension pay-out is not enough to care for me and my grandchildren. This is why I plough for household purposes and some for sale. It has not rained since late January. I was supposed to be preparing my crops for harvest, but it is now not possible as they have dried up,” she said.
“The last time I saw crops withering like this was in 1970 when I was still in my youth. It was the most difficult period, as families resorted to collecting wild foods to survive on. That year, my family only harvested four bags of maize,” Muchana said.
Kaenda Village Headman, Michael Kaenda, also explained that the situation about 45 years ago was bad, saying that although the rainfall was good the high temperatures left the soil and moisture levels unfavourable for the seeds to germinate or crops to grow.
He predicted that the 2014 crop production is facing a calamity as there is not enough rainfall, and weather temperatures are on a constant high of over 33 degrees every day.
“In general, food crops are sensitive to climate change but the heat alone is the result of water sources also drying up and thus affect our livestock too. This situation is affecting everyone, even non-farmers. Government must look into allocating drought relief aid to all regional residents,” said Kaenda.
Contacted for comment, Zambezi Regional Council chairperson Raphael Mbala said the region’s climate inconsistency has become more frequent over the years, adding this is also the reason for the seasonal flooding every year between March and August.
However, he said the Regional Council, along with Regional Disaster Risk Management Committee, will be conveying an emergency meeting next week, from which the members will draft a report for the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) to send a national team to visit Zambezi.
“I have been visiting different areas in the region and I have seen first-hand what these farmers, both livestock and crop, are experiencing. It is totally bad. I cannot even explain what the aftermath will be in a few months’ time,” Mbala said.
In all this, the council and committee are however hopeful that the OPM will come to the residents’ rescue, he said.