HARARE – Climate change is having a devastating effect on Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector. The country’s Meteorological Services (Met) Department has warned of the likelihood of below normal rainfall from October to December marked by a late start to the rainy season.

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\nThe news come as a blow to the country which is trying to recover from last season’s drought.

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Forecasts that the main rains will come in January have dampened hopes for a turnaround in agriculture.

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Last year’s erratic climate, including long dry spells and floods, devastated crops in most parts of the country and left 1.5 million Zimbabweans in need of food aid.

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Met Department Principal Meteorologist, Linia Gopo, says: “We are expecting less rains than the last season…the advice to the farmers is that they go for short grains or short season varieties or to stagger their plants because definitely this season has the likelihood of having a late start and an early cessation. We are having a short season generally.”

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The Met Department says the change in rainfall patterns and extreme climate are the effects of the climate change, but it’s an early warning system faces resistance from some small farmers.

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Last year’s erratic climate, including long dry spells and floods, devastated crops in most parts of the country and left 1.5 million Zimbabweans in need of food aid

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Local farmer, Christopher Zhuwao, confidently prepares to plant his maize crop. Last year, his entire crop was destroyed by a dry spell and then floods.

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He’s not familiar with the indigenous staples like sorghum and millet and says he doubts the Met departments’ predictions.

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“We follow in the traditions of our forefathers. September is the time to start preparing the land for planting and I expect the rain by October. My only frustration is that I don’t have the seed but we don’t want delay planting based on the technical information. Besides, we had some rain showers yesterday and so I am optimistic the season will be good.”

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The Met department’s programme to educate communities about the changing weather in their regions is hampered by lack of funds.

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It says however that farmers ignore the early warning at their own peril.

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“The warning that I have is that climate change is real. It’s a global thing…So you realise that the onset dates are changing, the cessation dates are changing and the rainfall patterns, distribution…it’s all changing. So it’s important for famers to understand the climate for their area,” says Gopo.

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A meeting of the Southern African Regional Climate Outlook Forum in the Democratic Republic of Congo last month, predicted the likelihood of below normal rains in many parts of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.

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