By Cuthbert Mashoko
The recent heavy downfall received in Mwenezi was a major relief to horticulture farmers who were feeling the heat of the adverse effects of Climate Change as their vegetable crops were failing to withstand the unfavourable hot temperatures which were prevailing in the district.
High temperatures clocking to 42 degrees Celsius accompanied by a heat wave, proved to be unbearable to vegetable production.
This came at a time when the Metrological Department has predicted an El-Nino which is going to affect the 2023/2024 farming season with below average to average rainfall.
Most horticulture farmers in Mwenezi ply their trade along the banks of Mwenezi River as they utilize the perennial waters of this water body which is consistently fed by the gigantic Manyuchi dam.
The majority of the farmers make use of flood and drip irrigation. However despite the availability of water, a snap survey of the once flourishing crops before the rains was a sorry state.
Moisture stressed crops that were at the verge of wilting was a common sight.
One would be forgiven to conclude that the farmers were not irrigating their crops, unfortunately this was not the case, while farmers were irrigation their crops, the high temperatures caused massive evapotranspiration.
A condition attribute to the dire catastrophe.
It is this gloom picture which seems to have been salvaged by the recently received rains which gives food for thought if the realization of food security is anything to go by, given the adverse effects of Climate Change in Mwenezi District which is characterized by hot, dry temperatures.
Signs of vegetable scarcity have already started to manifest, leading to prices of tomatoes and green vegetables to sky rocket in response to high demand and low supply.
It is this denting scenario which gives a pointer to the threat which the EL-NINO is likely to pose on food security as highlighted by its early shoots on horticulture production in Mwenezi.
A number of farmers who survive on horticulture to feed for their families are on tough times due to the destruction of their plants by the excessive heat.
More so, most of the farmers saw themselves pumping water frequently in order to counter the effects of the heatwave, a move which came at a price as more liters of fuel were used since most of the farmers are yet to switch to solar powered pumps.
Equally affected by the sorry state of the vegetable fields are vegetable vendors who now have limited supplies from the producers due to low production because of the unfavourable weather patterns which the district experienced before the rains.
Most of the vegetable vendors are women, as they seek to make ends meet. It is against this background that the ravaging effects of Climate Change call for mitigatory measures which are sustainable.
The use of greenhouses proves to be a necessity to horticulture farmers if they are to remain viable.
To this end it is imperative for farmers to adopt cooperative farming. Farming cooperatives of 10 to 1 members which the government assists by constructing or funding the construction of green houses, thereby protecting the farmers, vegetable plants.
This in a way will help to cushion the effects of Climate Change in Mwenezi which is usually associated with high temperatures and most importantly strike food security.
Maximizing yields on small pieces of land is also a vital technique which farmers need to be equipped with as they move away from the traditional farming methods which have thrust on hectrage.
Given the fact that it is expensive to greenhouse large hectares of land.
The use of greenhouses need to be accompanied by other moisture conservation methods such as mulching and tied ridging.
Watering plants in the evening and during the night is important as it minimizes the rate of water lost by plants through evapo-transpiration.
This will help to conserve water in the dams which are already showing signs of water depletion given erratic rains.
Adoption of smart agricultural practices is attributed to the agricultural prowess of countries such as
Israel and Ukraine who are famous for their dominance in food production and food security. In this regard, there is need to educate farmers on smart agricultural practices which mitigate the impacts of Climate Change as they move away from the old farming practices .
Reading from the above, there is no doubt that robust measures need to be put in place before the adverse effects of Climate Change take toll on humanity .Investing in the use of green-houses might be a step in the right direction towards the attainment of food security .
Mashoko Cuthbert is a teacher at Rutenga Primary and a Development practitioner. He writes in his own capacity.