Farmers should plant short-season crops – Msika

Windhoek-Permanent Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF), Percy Msika, has advised farmers to plant short-season crops to ensure fast crop maturity.

In an interview with New Era recently, the agriculture PS said farmers, who missed the planting season, should plant short-season variety crops that will mature in the shortest period since they only require a small amount of water.

He added that with the unpredictable rain and the drought experienced over the past years, it is advisable for farmers to also implement conservation agriculture.

Msika explained the importance of conservation agriculture (CA), saying that it helps at times when rainfall is not enough.

"This will help the soil to retain soil moisture for a longer period and at least allow crops to grow," explained Msika.

Short-season crops include vegetables such as spinach, lettuce, onions and cabbage.

They can be harvested in less than 60 days, while maize takes 60 to 95 days to grow, depending on the type of seed planted as well as the climate it is grown in.

CA is a set of soil management practices that minimise the disruption of the soil structure, composition and natural biodiversity. It has also been proven in east African countries where CA is used to improve crop yields, while improving long-term environmental and financial sustainable farming.

According to a study that was conducted by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) sub-regional office for Eastern Africa, titled 'Scaling-up Conservation Agriculture in Africa, CA can significantly contribute in reducing land degradation and increase food security.

The PS also advised farmers to plant drought-tolerant varieties and certified seed that has been processed under severe production requirements with strict limits on weeds.

Asked what the ministry would do to help communal and commercial farmers in the last quarter of the 2016/2017 financial year, the PS pointed out the financial crunch government is currently going through, saying that it makes it difficult for the ministry to render any special assistance to farmers.

"With the cash flow problems experienced, it will be very difficult to specify special assistance to farmers," said Msika.

However, he was quick to point out that any support the ministry would see fit to give to the farmers would be provided to all farmers. Centre for Environmental Economics and Policy in Africa (CEEPA), based in Pretoria, South Africa, has warned that African governments and their farmers should consider changing crops rather than hold on to traditional crops that often failed.

Source: New Era Newspaper Namibia