ZIMBABWE is expected to start receiving normal rainfall next week, bringing relief to farmers who want to plant maize early amid improved electricity generation at Kariba.
The development comes at a time when the country has experienced serious heatwaves causing water sources to dry up and leaving most livestock on the edge due to the lack of water and pastures. Experts attribute this to dynamic atmospheric systems that suppress moisture while increasing hot and dry coastal winds.
The Southern Africa Regional Climate Outlook Forum Committee expects Sadc countries to receive normal to below normal rainfall from October to December, as wet winds start to blow towards the country.
Zimbabwe’s Meteorological Services Department (MSD) foresees continued erratic rainfall and high temperatures, though significant rainfall is expected in mid-November.
MSD head of forecasting (Public Weather Service) Tichaona Zinyemba said: “As Met, we do not forecast longterm temperature ranges, but chances of getting significant rainfall patterns which are spread across the country next week (November 15) are high.”
He said most farmers should monitor these rainfall patterns as some areas would not receive rains till December. Parts of the country received significant rains on Friday, bringing relief to farmers and cooling temperatures after a persistent heat wave. Harare also received meaningful rainfall, giving an early start to peri-urban and urban farming.
Mutare, Marondera, Nyabira, Chinhoyi and Kwekwe also received meaningful rainfall, accompanied by hail, lightning, strong winds and storms. Kwekwe and Chibero recorded 12mm and 11mm respectively, Gokwe 7mm, while the rest of Midlands Province received insignificant rains.
Experts from the University of Zimbabwe meteorology department who use a top-of-the-range supercomputer to do their forecasting, say their 10-day forecast indicate increased and consistent rainfall.
“We witnessed isolated thunderstorms last week and expect this to occur next week. As of mid-month, we might see an increase in rainfall,” another expert said.
“Due to climate change our normal rainfall season, which usually starts from November, is changing and there are chances that some farmers who would have planted early would see some of their crops wilting,” meteorological experts said, adding that the systems that normally influence rainfall patterns this time of the year have been rather weak.
This has seen dominance of a dry south-westerly airflow drawing heat from Botswana and Namibia, resulting in excessive heat across the country and most of the Sadc region.
Wonder Chabikwa, the president of the Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union, told Business Times that farmers should wind up their tillage as the second round of rains should come when farmers were ready to plant.
“A wave of rainfall that characterised some parts of the country last week serves as a warning to farmers who are not yet prepared for the season. We know things are difficult for the farmers but one should plant at least a hectare of maize for his own consumption. Early maize always does better than the late planted crop,” Chabikwa said.
According to him, early rains will help farmers and cattle to get drinking water at nearby areas rather than to travel long distances.
Last week’s rains, he said, brought relief to some areas. Energy experts believe that the country is in urgent need of rains to increase Kariba’s capacity which stands at 162MW, instead of its installed capacity of 1050 MW.
The 162MW cannot even supply a city like Harare which needs 200MW to light up. Since May this year, power rationing has crippled companies, agriculture, mining and most small businesses located in the suburbs where 18-hour outages are common.