FRANCISTOWN: For farmers in the northern part of Botswana, the heavy downpours falling this month have been a blessing or a curse, depending where one’s farm is located.
The farmers have welcomed the recent announcement by the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security (MADFS) to extend the ploughing period from February 15 to 26, 2018.
The ploughing period refers to the duration of government’s agricultural inputs programme for farmers, which includes subsidised tillage services, seeds and agro-chemicals.
The current rains are a double-edged sword to farmers who cultivate their fields near Francistown, the country’s second city.
While farmers who cultivate their fields in the northern part of the city towards the Ramokgwebana border are rejoicing, the same cannot be said of their colleagues who till their farms towards Tonota on the southern side of the city.
Emmanuel Kwelagobe, who operates a lablab farm at Bonwamtsa farm a few kilometres from Tonota, said the rains have brought him some challenges. Lablab is a popular type of feedstock.
“I have planted about 15 hectares of lablab and I also wanted to plough pearl millet as advised by the Ministry of Agriculture. But unfortunately the rains have prevented me from doing so. As we speak, it is currently raining heavily, which makes carrying out any task in the farm impossible.”
Kwelagobe said when the soil has too much moisture, tractors and other farm implements stick to the soil.
“I have shelved my plans for planting pearl millet. I have to wait for a few days for the soil to dry a little bit before I plough again provided it does not keep on raining. The current rains have uprooted some of my crops. Even the seeds that recently germinated have been swept away by the rains. But there is nothing I
Louis Mukhopo near Shashe dam, is also literally singing the children’s ditty, “Rain, Rain Go Away”.
“I have heard that the ploughing period has been extended. It is a welcome development but it is a pity that I can’t do anything at my field. The soil is wet and heavy. We had done everything to plough but we can’t plough since our implements will stick to the wet soil. Our fear is that the situation may not normalise before the February 26 deadline.” Mukhopo is losing a lot of business because he is also using his tractor to plough the lands of other farmers.
“If the situation does not normalise soon, I may end up not ploughing the fields of other people because they may be hesitant to pay for my services after the ploughing period deadline has passed. It currently doesn’t look like the rains will stop falling anytime soon. But I have hope that they skies will clear,” Mukhopo said.
The farmers’ hopes had been lifted after the ministry made announcements using various mediums informing farmers about the extension of the ploughing period in the northern parts of the country.
A press release from ministry says that farmers who use technologies such as row planting and harrowing will continue to benefit according to Integrated Support Programme for Arable Agricultural Development (ISPAAD) guidelines.
The release further says: “Farmers are encouraged to plough and plant only when there is adequate moisture, which can sustain crops.”