FARMERS in Manicaland are at risk of accruing huge losses due to a combination of poor rains and mid-season drought that have resulted in severe damage to crops before reaching maturity. This will likely threaten productivity and food and nutritional security in the province.

Agritex head for Manicaland Mrs Phillipa Rwambiwa this week revealed that most crops were showing signs of severe moisture stress and may reach permanent wilting stage if no meaningful rains are received in the next week.

She said her ministry was undertaking the first round of crop and livestock assessment to gauge the extent of the damage throughout the province.

The assessment builds on results from the first round like planted area, crop stages and condition, rainfall quality and crop input availability and the extent they influence crop yields and production this season.

The assessment relies upon data collected by Agritex and livestock production department officers at ward level and the provincial findings will be forwarded to the ministry for consolidation, pending the second and final assessment.

“A prolonged dry spell has hit the province leaving crops at wilting point, and in areas like Buhera farmers are now asking for food aid. If we do not receive meaningful rains any time soon most crops will never recover and chances of getting better yields will be remote. However, if we receive the rains soon, better yields can still be harvested in other areas,” said Mrs Rwambiwa.

An estimated 90 percent of farmers in the province had planted various crops this season and were hoping to receive normal to above normal rainfall to boost food security.

A survey by The Manica Post in Manicaland revealed that drier parts of the province were facing a tremendous challenge in meeting food needs of its rapidly growing population as the bulk of its crop suffered severe moisture stress which made it to wilt. The quality of the bulky of the crop is poor due to a combination of moisture stress in the overworked, tired and infertile soils, erratic availability and application of fertilisers, and lack of crop rotation, among other poor agronomic practices bordering on agricultural illiteracy.

Mr Fungai Mungede, of plot number 5 Prim West, Odzi said his one hectare of maize which had reached the tussling stage was a write off.

His sentiments were also echoed by Mr Isaac Manjeke, of Maenje Farm in Odzi, who said he had resigned to watching the area he had planted under the command agriculture programme wilting in the scotching heat.

“Some farmers like me in this area have already lost hope of harvesting anything from the fields. We have accrued huge losses. Even if it rains now, at best I will harvest the whole field for stock feed,” he said.

Agritex extension officer Mr Douglas Nzarayebani said about 60 percent of the tobacco crop in Manicaland suffered as a result of the dry spell.

Nearly 19 000 hectares had been put under tobacco this season.

He added that irrigated tobacco had not been affected by the dry spell.

Mr Nzarayebani advised farmers in dry land to stop applying fertilisers to their crops until they receive beneficial rains.