EDITORIAL COMMENT: Time for farmers to wrap up preps

THE Meteorological Services Department has since issued the seasonal forecast for the 2017-18 farming season. There will be normal to above normal rains.

This means that the season may be characterised by rains enough to see crops grow to maturity, guaranteeing good harvests and the much-needed food security at the same time. On the one hand, the season may have more than enough rains, which may spell doom in a way. There may be disasters coming with the abundant rains — floods and violent storms.

Forewarned is forearmed. Now this does not only apply to farmers but to everyone. It is critical that with such a forecast in mind we need to religiously follow weather bulletins, especially the short-term forecasts for they make reference to things coming not in the distant but near future.

Disasters such as flooding and violent storms can claim lives, destroy homes, property and even livestock, so we need to act appropriately once such warnings are issued. It is also critical to work as communities and always share the goings-on on the weather front. A stitch in time has always been credited with saving nine or even more.

Farmers intending to do cropping this coming season must at this point be almost ready with their preparations. Preparations will include tilling the land and securing inputs in most cases, which means fertilisers, seed and even chemicals for the control of pests and weeds should be in place for those doing it on a large scale.

The season is expected to start any time soon and with the current changes in weather, anything can happen. The rains may start falling any day and this means it will be time to start planting. After all, who knew that last season would have such lavish rains and such a long season? That speaks volumes of the unpredictable nature of the weather.

While it is a fact that the illiquid economy is making it very difficult for farmers to prepare at their own pace, the sad reality is that time is never static so farmers have to do something, and fast. Yes, some may choose to wait for inputs that will come with Government programmes such as Command Agriculture and the free Presidential inputs but remember it’s not them (farmers) that will decide on the dates of the disbursements so time may easily go before the schemes get underway.

Remember, there are thousands of farmers queueing for the same services and the distribution is not going to be done overnight. There are many factors that need to be  considered, for instance, the general logistics and Government’s overall capacity to serve all people at the same time given the current difficult patch the economy is slogging through. It may mean that some farmers may get the inputs a little late while others may get them right on time.

It is best for farmers to make sure they some of the inputs they need instead of waiting for Government programmes. Some farmers are often guilty of acting very irresponsibly when they have surplus inputs, for example, seed or even fertilisers, which they store under very bad conditions rendering them unsuitable for use later.

Others even have the guts to sell the surplus and usually the money generated from such sales is not used productively. The fact is that farmers need to start planting as soon as the first significant rains hit the earth because the season may be concluded in the normal time and may not be as long as the 2016-17 one, which had everything to remind people of the flooding that happened during the biblical Noah’s time.

Farmers must also not forget to make the necessary arrangements for labour ahead of the season and decide if they will need to hire extra hands and discuss with the possible candidates so that they are not engaged elsewhere.

Farmers also need to make sure fences and livestock holding pens are in good condition to eliminate instances of livestock straying into fields or just spending nights out of kraals, which in most cases creates chances for them to wander into fields and destroying crops, which is always a guaranteed source of social disputes that sometimes do not end well.

This send-off message has been repeated at the start of almost every season, so those farmers found wanting in terms of preparedness must not blame it on the economy always, as has become the norm now but do their bit by being poorly organised. Good luck in the 2017-18 season!