FRANCISTOWN: Chairperson of TOTUMA Arable and Commercial Farming Association, Jan Erasmus has said they hope for a successful ploughing season despite some difficulties faced by most farmers.
He told The Monitor that due to several 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.
Erasmus 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 many 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 an example that in Tonota region only eight tonnes of open pollinated sorghum seedlings are available and the rest are not.
“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 they also invited the Department of Meteorological Services so that its officials can brief them on the weather forecast during the 2020/21 ploughing season.
He added that the same department gave them a 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 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.
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 the whole process is going to be tedious, as less manpower will be hired to do the jobs due to the strict COVID-19 movement restrictions and protocols.
Erasmus said during the trying times like now it is difficult to get travelling permits for labourers as per the COVID-19 protocols.
He also indicated that the introduction of working shifts for government employees 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 protocols in the meantime.