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Mat South Communal Farmers In Dire Need Of Smart-Agriculture Technologies

Drip systems are geared for precision and allow farmers to fine-tune how much water each and every pant receives. Image by Shutter Stock

BY VUSINLDU MAPHOSA | @The_CBNews | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. | MAR 2, 2022

With unpredictable climate change induced weather patterns, communal farmers are left with no option but to adapt smart agriculture technologies to beat drought.

GWANDA (The Citizen Bulletin) — Ever changing weather patterns coupled with poor soil fertility and low rains in Matabeleland South have left communal farmers facing drought.

Lack of climate-smart agriculture techniques has seen many posting huge losses in wastage of inputs such as maize seeds and fertilizer.

Matabeleland South falls under region six which is associated with very low rainfall.

“I have been a small-scale communal farmer for the past 40 years. There is a lot that has changed over the period including yields, seasons and economy.”
Nomusa Ndlovu, a communal farmer at Glassblock in Umzingwane

“How do we embrace this change as farmers? We are just farming based on our ancient knowledge but we need to be empowered with modern skills and knowledge on how to conduct crop farming.”

Boniswa Dube, a communal farmer at Enyandeni, says they are in dire need of smart-agriculture techniques to boost yields and incomes after seasonal droughts.

“More public spaces need to be opened for farmers to state their challenges and how they should be assisted. Such debates, trainings and discussions will benefit more individuals and the state as a whole,” Dube says.

Climate-smart techniques including water-saving drip irrigation are still not working for many communal farmers because of a lack of supportive policies, extension advice, awareness and investment.

Many communal farmers do not afford to buy equipment like drip kits and tractors, nor do they have broadband internet to access timely information on the weather patterns to practice conservation farming.

Conservation agriculture includes practices like minimising disturbance to the soil and rotating crops, to enhance fertility, prevent soil erosion and ward off diseases.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FA) says such farming techniques can help farmers increase yields and incomes while adapting to more extreme and unpredictable weather linked to climate change.

Using drones for precision farming. Image by Center for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation

Sibongile Sibanda a villager in Insiza says she expects a poor harvest despite toiling in the fields.

“I was trusting that my hard work will bear fruits but the yields in my fields are discouraging,” Sibanda says. “I think we need help with knowledge on how we should conduct crop farming because it appears we lack quite some skills on that, because even when the rains are abundant we do not harvest well here.”

The Meteorology Service Department (MSD) urges farmers to embrace various methods of crop farming depending on the weather patterns to boost yields.

MSD Agrometoerologist Benjamin Makuwire Kwenda says without smart agriculture techniques, communal farmers are doomed.

“These would ensure household sustainability and the ability to irrigate and sustain soil moisture for prolonged periods,” says Kwenda.

“They need to practice smart agriculture going forward, irrigate where possible, plant small grains for such areas, and have water conservation practices.”

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Matabeleland South Acting Provincial Agricultural officer, Mkhunjulelwa Ndlovu, says the central government has been providing technical assistance on smart-agriculture techniques to the communal farmers through Agritex officers.

“Every communal farming area has a competent and mobile extension officer to advise and train them on conservation farming techniques,” Ndlovu says.

“The limine in the soils need to be analyzed through the assistance of Agritex officers and the Matopo Research Station because if they don’t, it will continue to affect their crop yields.”

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