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Northern farmers scramble after ploughing extension

Wonder women: Montlhe and Siwawa expect to smile throughout the season PIC:KEOAGILE BONANG
MOWANA: The chairperson of Tonota, Tutume and Masunga (TOTUMA) Farmers Association, Priscilla Monthe has encouraged farmers to take advantage of the extension of the ploughing season in the northern part of the country.

The Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security (MADFS) recently extended the ploughing season for farmers in the northern part of the country from February 15 to February 26.

The ploughing season was extended after authorities noted that the prolonged dry spell from November had resulted in low plantings by farmers. The delay in the onset of the rain season and the subsequent extension mean farmers have a little more time to take advantage of government’s subsidised inputs programme.

On Wednesday, Mmegi found Monthe, a retired accountant, in her field located about 40 kilometres north of Francistown.

The ecstatic Monthe had just finished taking readings from a rain gauge in her field. The rain gauge showed that 20 millimetres of rain had been collected the previous night.

As a rain-fed crop production farmer, the recent showers are a blessing to Monthe who has already ploughed five out of eight hectares in her field, the main crop being pearl millet.

Asked why she opted to plough pearl millet, Monthe said the crop was drought resistant and has a ready market in the northern part of the country.

With eight years’ experience in crop production, Monthe is aware of the problems posed by climate change currently faced by farmers all over the world.

“As farmers we always have hope no matter the circumstances. We believe in God and subscribe to the saying that ‘God will never forsake us’,” Monthe said.

She said most farmers were now aware that the ploughing season had become difficult to plan for over the years, since the advent of climate change.

Monthe encouraged farmers to join farmers associations explaining that these are vital in conveying messages received from the ministry to farmers in a quick and efficient way during difficult periods.

“The current ploughing period extension from the ministry is an example. “We have to adapt to the problems brought

by climate change since they are beyond our control. We also have to utilise modern ploughing technologies in order to maximise yields.” Monthe encouraged farmers to plant crops that will mature before the winter season such as pearl millet, in order to reap from the sweat of their brow. Another farmer, Angelinah Siwawa, has managed to plough her entire field which is a little over seven hectares in size. Siwawa’s farm is located in Tsamaya village about five kilometres from Monthe’s farm.  The retired teacher is also a member of TOTUMA.

“The weather is unpredictable. We believe in God as farmers so we cannot only rely on the metrological department even if they may say there won’t be enough rain this year. We make sure that at any time if it rains we plough.” Siwawa, who unlike other farmers did not wait for the extension period of the ploughing period, said she ploughed her last hectare last Friday.

For her, the government’s extension of the ploughing season is a blessing in disguise. Siwawa advised farmers to plant crops that mature early because not doing so is a risk particularly when many have planted late.

She said it was wise for farmers to join farmers associations in order to reap the various benefits associated with joining farmers associations, which have a close working relationship with the Ministry of Agriculture.

“It’s also important to join farmers associations because members of these associations have regular contact with agricultural demonstrators who offer expert advice on which crops to plant, especially if the ploughing period has elapsed or is prolonged like what is currently obtaining,” she said. 

Despite the optimism at the two fields, it was clear that some areas were still lying fallow, a sign that some farmers had given up on the cropping season after the prolonged dry spell.




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