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Met department misled farmers

Farmers’ have accused the Meteorological Services Department (MSD) for issuing “unreliable” weather  forecasts which have resulted in poor planning on part of the farmers.
The MSD predicted normal to above normal rainfall between October and December  last year.
MSD also predicted a normal to above rainfall between January and March this year.
But, the rainfall was erratic, characterised by dry spells, affecting crop output.
Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president Shadreck Makombe said the Met department’s season outlook was very inaccurate as it misled farmers on planning for the season.
“The forecast was lost during the first half where we received rains at the tail end of December 2021  and also the country experienced one of the worst and longest dry spells in February. We were advised we are going to have good rains during that time,” Makombe said.
“The Met department

should try to do better next season as its prediction affected farmers’ planning.”
Zimbabwe Farmers Union secretary general Paul Zakariya said Zimbabwe should not rely much on Met department and rain-fed agriculture especially in these times of climate change.
“The Met department has come out clear on the amount of rain that was going to fall but they did not give details on distribution and areas. There was no way that information was going to be useful to any serious farmers as it’s just general information to deal with,” Zakariya said.
“The seasonal outlook does not mean anything hence it’s not meaningful to any serious farmer. If a farmer still follows that information, he or she has a problem also.”
He said instead farmers should invest in irrigation equipment to beat weather vagaries.
“If a farmer can set up irrigation infrastructure for a half hectare, the results will be very different as 10 of every 12 seasons will be drought-related.
“There are many

water bodies being commissioned around the country but people are not doing anything about it. Instead you see tourists fishing for fun,” Zakariya said.
MSD  said the department was not responsible  for the farmers’ planning and cannot be crucified  for giving out information at hand.
“Do these people  who are accusing us  of misleading the nation know the meaning of the word forecast. The word itself is based on prediction which means it may happen or not.
“When we do a season outlook in September there is no way we can tell a farmer that there is going to be a dry spell in February but smaller details will come through on updates.
“I am surprised by those claims as all farmers unions have our contacts and we interact time and again on weather issues. Why didn’t they ask us about these issues,” MSD said.
The department said farmers only blame MSD when the predictions go wrong but when they go right no one acknowledges.
*BusinessTimes*
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