ZIMBABWE is expected to receive normal rains with a bias towards below normal throughout the 2018/19 season, Government has announced. The Meteorological Services Department said this implies the country will receive erratic rains during the 2018/19 season.

Presenting the 2018/19 seasonal rainfall forecast at the National Climate Outlook forum in Harare yesterday, Ambassador Grace Mutandiro said the weather and climate information was important for stakeholders to adequately plan and make informed decisions and plan their activities.

“The 2018/19 rainfall season is pointing towards an El Nino phase. El Nino is associated with above average warming of the sea surface temperatures of the Pacific Ocean and in most years is usually associated with reduced rainfall activity over the sub region.

“We are informed by science that approximately 62 percent of El Nino phases have resulted in below normal rainfall in Zimbabwe leaving us with less than 40 percent chance of good rains during this coming season. Researchers have found out that not all El Nino years will result in drought.

“As we are all aware that our agriculture sector forms an integral part of our economy and is mostly rain fed. In the last year agriculture contributed 10,46 percent to the economy, and we know potentially it can employ up to 70 percent of the population and contribute to 60 percent of our raw materials to industry so our meeting should be taken in that context of the national economic well-being,” she said.

Ambassador Mutandiro paid tribute to Government partners who collaborate with the Ministry technically and financially in assisting stakeholders to successfully prepare for the season and strengthen the national early warning systems.

According to the Meteorological services Department meteorologist Mr James Ngoma the 2018/19 rainfall season is expected to be erratic in space and time. He said the forecast was for total seasonal rainfall amount.

“October rains are generally erratic for rain-fed agriculture, more meaningful rains normally begin at the end of November into December. It will be prudent to put in place measures for an early cloud seeding programme in light of the expected erratic rainfall season throughout the country,” he said.

Mr Ngoma said in view of the moisture availability and suitable temperature thresholds, those with irrigation facilities should not wait for the main rains to fall. They can plant any time now, taking into account the high temperature needed for germination.

“Violent storms, prolonged dry spells, flash floods and tropical cyclones cannot be ruled out as the season progresses. There is need to continue with water harvesting programmes. The policies of small dam construction and borehole drilling or deepening, conservation and protection of wetlands should continue, more so in the southern provinces of the country.

“Application of fertilisers should be guided by the 10-day weather forecasts and advice from agricultural authorities,” he said.
Zimbabwe Farmers Union president Mr Paul Zakariya yesterday said it was important for Government to have a policy intervention while farmers also establish own resilience strategies.

“There is need to begin to establish resilience among farmers so they are not always dependent on Government to do things for them all the time. It is important that farmers embrace climate smart agriculture practices that appreciate that climate change is here and real.

“Farmers now need to adapt and to mitigate effects of climate change. This season, we want to ensure our farmers work closely with their extension workers and input suppliers so that they buy the appropriate type of seed with clear information coming from the MSD to advise them especially the daily weather and 10-day weather forecasts that can give an indication of whether they will get enough moisture to plant and to go through the season. Timing is very critical.

“Farmers should begin to implement irrigation development on the farm, because there is nothing to do with Government, but ploughing back their profits to develop even a small potion so that they supplement rainfall during dry times,” he said.
Mr Zakariya urged Government to implement a deliberate irrigation development programme for the country.

He said Zimbabwe had enough water bodies to be used for agriculture and there was need to ensure the water is drawn and directed to the fields.

“Water harvesting techniques and water harvesting assets now must be a must at farm level and at policy level,” he said.
Department of Civil Protection acting director Ms Sibusisiwe Ndlovu yesterday said there was need to scale up education and awareness on hazards related to the 2018/19 rainfall season.

“There is need to scale up early recovery interventions, conduct incident specific lessons learned to enhance preparedness and ensure there is district and localised dissemination of forecast and attendant response planning. There is need for a composite national contingency plan,” she said.

Zimbabwe National Water Authority’s hydrology expert Ms Debra Musiwa said national dams were 78,2 percent full, which was quite high and above the average of 64,7 percent that the country usually expects at this time of the year.

“We are expecting that the current levels will be able to cushion the country in the event of less inflows. Most urban centres have enough water to last beyond December 2018.

“The rural water supply situation is better this year than the previous year and some rural communities, which depend on rivers for their water supply will experience a decline in the amount of water they have due to low inflows,” she said.

Ms Musiwa said most rural areas had benefited from water harvesting programmes, which had been going on.
“We have close to 221 boreholes that have been drilled across the country and 48 small dams being rehabilitated and we have completed close to 158 weirs that have been under construction,” she said.

The World Food Programme said when a forecast of a low rainfall is issued farmers tend to retain their grain and not sell it and this would result in the increase in food prices, which will negatively impact on vulnerable households.