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Unpredictable Weather Makes Resettled Zimbabwean Farmers Struggle
April 24, 2017
Ten years ago, former bricklayer Samuel Musengi was allocated a nine-hectare plot to cultivate in Zimbabwe as part of an accelerated phase of land reform that saw tens of thousands of black families resettled on what were once vast, mostly white-owned commercial farms.
It’s not going so well for him; nor for many others.
Increasingly unpredictable weather and a lack of government support has made it all but impossible for Zimbabwe’s resettled farmers to achieve anything like the full potential of their plots.
Even the government’s weather forecasts are unreliable, according to 42-year-old Musengi, who grows maize and beans and raises a few head of livestock in Wedza, some 90 kilometres southeast of Harare.
“These people (the weather forecasters) get it wrong about when the rains will come most of the time. That makes it difficult to prepare our fields. If the Met Department cannot correctly tell when it will rain, what do you expect from simple farmers like me?” Musengi told IRIN.
But it’s getting harder too for forecasters.
Extreme weather shocks are occurring with rising frequency in Zimbabwe, “with a flood year immediately following a drought year”, according to a 2015 study by Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung and the Harare-based Research and Advocacy Unit.
In addition to more floods and droughts, the report predicted that the onsets and ends of rainy seasons would continue to change and be interrupted by more frequent and longer dry spells, and that the distribution of rainfall across the country would also become more and more erratic – bad news indeed for Zimbabwean agriculture, which is mainly rain-fed.