Last week the Department of Meteorological Services informed the nation that rain would become scarce in the next three months of the rainy season – January to March.
In fact weather forecasts for the month of February shows there is likely to be no rain at all.
This indeed is a gloomy forecast, especially considering Botswana normally does not expect much rain after the month of February.
Owing to our high evapotranspiration rates, there is a likelihood of crop failure, especially in the southern parts of the country. But, even in the drier season, we can beat crop failure by ensuring that our fields do not unnecessarily lose moisture. That means we must get rid of weeds, which compete for water with our crops. We also need to properly monitor our crops for any pests to ensure effective growth and maturity.
It is disheartening that already some farmers who benefited from government’s ISPAAD grogramme have left their fields unfenced and allowed weeds, pests and animals to destroy the crop. Such irresponsible behaviour must be condemned in the strongest of terms, for in applying for ISPAAD assistance, such farmers effectively applied for public funds, which they are now irresponsibly wasting away. We urge the government to take action against such farmers. It is enough that government is spoon-feeding its people, but even a child who chooses to regurgitate food gets spanked for wasting food and misbehaving. That we will have very minimal rainfall in the southern part of the country also means we have a potential drought season. It is imperative that farmers, especially those with beef and small stock prepare for that eventuality to prevent the death of their animals during the dry period.
Preparation should include stacking enough fodder and supplements for the animals especially at this time when pastures are good. This is the time to think about selling one or two animals among the few that a farmer may have, to buy necessary supplies and treatment to ensure the survival of the rest of the animals.
There are also cheaper ways of doing it. These include cutting and storing rich grass, maize and sorghum stalks and other farm produce. We urge our mostly traditional farmers not to open their farms to animals to eat farm residue, but to instead save it. It will prove most useful should this year become a drought year as it threatens to be. Finally we applaud those farmers who have made it their business to feed this nation. Our food security has drastically improved due to the resolve of these men and women. We urge the government to recognise their efforts by helping create a market that offers competitive prices for their produce, especially maize, whose price has remained dismally low over the years, and discouraged many a farmer.