No rain; Farmers devastated

SHARE   |   Monday, 15 January 2018   |   By Othusitse Tlhobogang
No rain; Farmers devastated

Farmers across the country are crying foul over the lack of rain in the current ploughing season. With inconsistent rainfall and extremely hot temperatures, it has been unrealistic for farmers to plough up to this time. Most have lost hope in planting this season as they are afraid it will not be fruitful. With the planting season normally closing at the end of January in the southern part of the country, it is already too late for the farmers. The chairman of the Mosisedi Commercial Famers Association (MCFA) Quett Rabai said the situation is very bad that they have not yet planted. Rabai said with no rain they cannot do any planting as it will be suicidal to them. He is worried that the ploughing and planting season is coming to an end in just two weeks. “There is no rain and so we have not planted even to this point. It is a very bad situation as we do not know when the rain will come while time is running out for us,” he said. Rabai said they are just waiting with abated breath for the rain. 
The troubled Rabai went on to say it means if the rain does not come then they will not plant. He, however, said some of the farmers have prepared the land while a few have actually planted. “About 3% of the farmers have prepared the land and about two or three have planted. The crops are currently 15cm above ground,” he said. He, however, said the extreme heat is affecting the crops and they would die out if the rain does not come within the coming two weeks. The past days have seen temperatures reaching a maximum of 43 degrees in some places, a record temperature ever recorded in some areas. Some subsistence farmers in the Barolong area have also shared the same fear with Rabai. The farmers have lost hope and most of them say they will not be ploughing this season because of the lack of rain and the high heat that quickly takes moisture away. With farmers giving up, it means there will be reduced production at the end of the season. Rabai said this might lead to drought in the country as there will be shortage of food.
With the weather conditions not supportive to agricultural activities, the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security has advised farmers and tractor owners or contractors to be very cautious when engaging in ploughing and planting activities. Farmers have been advised not to plant crops when the soil moisture is too low to allow for germination and subsequently sustain crops. Those who are still hopeful and would want to plough and plant have been urged to use drought tolerant and early maturing varieties of crops. “Farmers are encouraged to plant more sorghum than maize since sorghum is more drought tolerant. Maize should be minimised as it is a heavy feeder and does not stand high temperatures. In areas like North West and Chobe Agricultural Districts which normally receive better rainfall, farmers who plant maize are advised to go for early maturing varieties. Farmers in Kgalagadi and Gantsi Districts are advised to plant early maturing leguminous (cow peas) and cucurbits (melons) crops,” said the ministry in a statement.
Efforts to get hold of Minister Patrick Ralotsia were not successful. However, the minister through his Facebook page has urged farmers to remain hopeful and keep praying for rain. “With this heat and no rainfall we know hope departs some of the farmers and Batswana in general. However me and my wife remain hopeful, let us continue to pray for good rains so that we may have a good year. God will see us through,” read his post. Ralotsia further advised farmers to take extra care of their animals, plants and children.