Crops Farmers Have Mixed Expectations About Rain

Crop farmers in the north-central regions have expressed different views of what to expect from the current rain season that got underway in October but which has delivered only a few light showers in some areas. g winds have shifted a lot of top soil in deforested areas where the land is bare and over grazed making it vulnerable to wind erosion. Recently, Ondangwa town and its surrounding rural areas were hit by a sand storm, which darkened part of the sky similar to the ‘dust-bowl phenomena’ of the 1930’s in the USA. Farmers’ Forum spoke to crop farmers in all the regions on the eve of the planting season and this is what they had to say.

Julia Shipanga -a Conservation Agriculture (CA) farmer from the Okaku constituency in the Oshanar region says she is not sure about good rain prospects. “It might be good because the radio is announcing that rain is going to be good but according to us it is going to be bad because the rain is already late. By this time last year we were doing ripping furrowing land prepared but this year we cannot yet rip as the soils are very compacted and eroded. We have to wait for good rains in order to rip furrow as the plough pan in fields that were not ripped before is simply too hard. However, ripping furrowing is the only way forward as crops will not grow on a hard plough pan.” she says.

Maria Amunyanyo, further south-west in Uukwiyu constituency also from Oshana, sees good signs for rain due to the marula trees setting many fruits. She adds that “the other thing is that there are termites appearing around homesteads and that is sign of more rain fall and possible flood”. Amunyanyo is practicing conventional farming methods. On the matter of soil quality she have noticed that “it was good seventeen years ago and we used to get very good yields but now the soil is no more the same and yields are always very low.”

In the (Omuntele and Onyaanya constituencies in the Oshikoto region both Johannes Keshongo and Simon Kambonde have noticed promising signs of rain, such as that the marula trees have set a lot of fruits. In addition, a tree species called “Omutsii” has set flower early, which is a positive sign of rain expectation. Both say that even if there should be a drought, farmers have to work hard and apply climate-smart methods to have yields even during a drought. Keshongo has practiced conservation agriculture (CA) – ripping furrowing – for six years and the ripped lines goes from north to south, thus minimising wind erosion as the wind is mainly east to west, or west to east. He has also improved the organic matter in the soil and the hard pan is cracked, thus giving rise to better root development. Kambonde applied CA for the first time last crop season and he agrees with Keshongo on the results.

“CA will be the best option both in a drought and flood year, so we as lead farmers are busy sharing this information with the farmers around us and we encourage them to practise CA as it is more helpful to survive in drought as well as flood,” say Keshongo with Kambonde nodding in agreement.

Naem Mwanyekango in Okalongo constituency in the Omusati region has noticed signs for possible good rainfall and doesn’t believe her area is heading into another drought. However, Mwanyekango is concerned about soil erosion and soil compaction. Her field is under conventional farming methods.”The soil in my field is of poor quality, and my yields are very low year after year. The top soil was washed away by heavy rains in the past, and then came the drought making the soil very hard. It is difficult to farm under such circumstances.”

Letta Sebron in the Elim constituency says that the recent building up of clouds is a good sign for possible rainfall. In her area the marula trees have also set a lot of fruits. Sebron has practised conservation agriculture for many years, and has noticed that her soil has improved vastly due to ripping furrowing in the same lines year after year, and due to the fact that she has added kraal manure and plant residues to build up soil fertility and soil water-holding capacity. “My aise to other farmers is to switch to conservation agriculture (ripping furrowing), to add organic matter in the planting lines and to introduce soil cover in their fields,” says Sebron.

Livestock farmers in the Kunene region look at signs in the carcasses of cows, goats and sheep. If the veins “are large”, it means rainfall will be good. They also look for “spots” inside the stomach lining of livestock. They say that if a cow (which is a grazer) turns into a browser during the dry season, feeding off bushes and trees, it means there is an upcoming drought. In addition, if goats kept in the kraal during night time during the spring make a loud sound while shaking their heads, then it is a sign that a good rainy season is to be expected.

Farmers in Opuwo are saying that the signs from the various ways of predicting good rainfall point to a good rainy season in the 2014 2015 season.

Source : New Era