HARARE: Mapurisa Mutadza has had to relocate his 17 head of cattle from his village to a farm more than 15 km away in a desperate bid to save them from the ravaging drought.
Only the more resilient goats were left behind in his homestead in rural Midlands province.
Mutadza decided that he did not want to take the chances.
Already, the drought has starved 16,000 beasts countrywide during the past few months, government officials say.
“I had to move them.
“In fact one of them has just calved and I did not want to risk losing them, so I sent them to a small farm near Runde River where there is water.
“The pastures are also very good there,” Mutadza said.
The person who tends the cattle rides a bicycle every morning to go and look after them throughout the day and rides back after driving them into the pens for the night.
“Well, this relative is helping us out but he will also gain because next season he will have a lot of manure to apply in his fields as more dung will collect in his pen,” he said as he sat in a shed at his homestead.
Many other villagers had also relocated their beasts to greener pastures, still hoping that rains would fall and save the day, as the El Nino induced drought maintains its grip on southern Africa.
Water regulator the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) has since issued a statement urging people to use water sparingly as the country’s reservoirs are low.
“Most dam levels are lower than expected with the national average being 50. 6 percent at a time when the average is usually 69 percent,” said ZINWA spokesperson Marjorie Munyonga.
“The depressed levels mean the country will have challenges meeting demand for both domestic and agricultural requirements.”
“In light of this development, which is a direct effect of El Nino, water users are encouraged to use the available water very efficiently.
“There is need to use water very sparingly,” she said.
She urged irrigating farmers to enter into water abstraction agreements with ZINWA to allow the authority to properly plan the available water and for the farmers to plant crops that conform with the water made available to them.
As at February 12, the southern parts of the country remained the most severely affected.
The Runde catchment covering predominantly in Masvingo Province had dams which were less than 50 percent full on average.
The country’s biggest inland lake, Mutirikwi, was sitting at just 21.2 percent of capacity.
Mutadza said irrigation farmers who drew water from a nearby irrigation scheme had been ordered to stop planting because water levels in the dam were precariously low.
Mutadza does not have to worry about weeding this year, or about livestock straying into his fields and eating his crop.
“We have had a lot of sun.
“The first crop failed and I replanted.
“When the second crop failed, I decided that it would be stupid of me to make a third attempt,” he said.
Many people who still had faith in the weather replanted, but their crop is showing signs of moisture stress and will not give much yield.
The government has so far imported 615,000 tons of maize to feed about 3 million hunger-stricken Zimbabweans and to boost the country’s Strategic Grain Reserve (SGR).
Zimbabwe requires about 2 million tons annually for both human and livestock consumption.
A total of 1.4 million tons will be required until the next harvesting season, according to Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Under normal circumstances, the SGR should hold about 500,000 tons to ensure food security in the country.
Boreholes have also run dry, leaving villages with very few sources of water for both domestic consumption and livestock use.
According to ZINWA, a total of 12,931 boreholes are not functional countrywide.
In Harare, more rains are needed to flush out dirt from the city’s main water reservoir Lake Chivero on the Manyame River, which is heavily polluted and forcing the local municipality to use more chemicals than is usually the case to treat the water.
Cleaner water from the downstream Manyame Dam is blended with the Chivero water, but the pollution levels remain high.
Harare also draws water from the smaller upstream Seke and Harava dams but water rationing looms as the rain season moves towards the end amid indications that the major dams of Chivero and Manyame will not fill up and spill this season.
- New Zimbabwe