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TOTUMA farmers remain hopeful

LESEDI MKHUTSHWA
Crop fields PIC: KEOAGILE BONANG
FRANCISTOWN: TOTUMA Arable and Commercial Farming Association chairperson, Jan Erasmus has said they hope for a successful ploughing season despite some difficulties faced by most farmers.

In an interview with this publication, Erasmus said due to a lot of obstacles they are still encountering such as unreliable rainfall, harsh weather conditions and the COVID-19 pandemic, they are keeping their fingers crossed for a successful ploughing season.

He also said for now about six farmers of 35 members have started ploughing whereas majority of them are still at the soil preparation stage.

He said that a lot of farmers were still lagging behind because the government has not issued them coupons, which guarantees a subsidy of 35% paid for the seedlings to be used during the ploughing process.

Erasmus explained that farmers are also facing a challenge of shortage of seedlings and the district agricultural offices informed them that currently there were no seedlings brought to them.

He gave example that in Tonota region, only eight tonnes of open pollinated seedling of sorghum and the rest are not available.

He added: “We recently held a meeting on October 29, which was graced by some of our members and we took a decision to proceed with ploughing without the coupons so that we can target the rainy season”.

Erasmus said that they also invited the Department of Meteorological Services so that they can brief them on the weather forecast during the 2020/21 ploughing season.

He further said that the same department gave them

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thumbs-up to proceed with their preparations for this ploughing season as they were expecting a forecast of normal to above normal rainfall - from 250 ml.

Erasmus said that even though the weather could be unpredictable, looking back to what has been happening over the past few days they are still going to proceed with ploughing guided by the forecast.

On another matter, he also indicated that they are encountering another problem of shortage of labourers to assist in the process of soil preparation and planting the seeds.

He said that the whole process is going to be slow, as less manpower will be hired to do the jobs due to the strict COVID-19 movement restrictions and protocols.

Erasmus said that during the harsh times it is difficult to get travelling permits for labourers as per the COVID-19 protocols.

He also indicated that a new strategy of introduction of civil servants working in shifts to avoid crowding the workplace is going to cost them.

He believed that with the new shift system introduced at government offices there is a high chance that there would be shortage of extension officers (balemisi) experienced by the department due to the   demand.

With all that is taking place, Erasmus urged the farmers to remain hopeful and  follow the COVID-19 set protocols at all times in the meantime.



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