MASERU — Sehlabeng sa Thuoathe farmers are upbeat that compared to last year, produce will improve this summer season if favourable rains continue.
Although significant arable land was not utilised in some parts of the area, some farmers who managed to plant a variety of crops said the season was promising a better yield.
Apparently, the severe dry spell, experienced in some parts of the country early last month caused some market gardening farmers in Sehlabeng, which is about 20 kilometres north of Maseru, to scale-down on vegetable production.
Down-to-earth farmers in the area produce cash crops such as cabbages, onions, tomatoes, spinach and lettuce.
In a way, they demonstrate the importance of peri-urban farming in supplying and feeding Maseru city dwellers.
However, their operations in Sehlabeng sa Thuoathe rely on rain and irrigation using water from small dams, many of which are also fast silting.
Owing to the dry spell experienced earlier on this year, farmers like 31-year-old Moketa Moketa scaled-down on vegetable production and concentrated on maize and bean.
“Although I have lost out on vegetables, I am happy about the healthy state of the maize and beans following the current rain,” Moketa said.
Married with four children, Moketa irrigates his crop using water from a small dam near his plot.
“It’s hurtful for every farmer to helplessly watch while your crops wilt. During such dry spells, water from this dam helps a lot. However, the problem is the water level has not been improving over the past few years. I pray that it continues to rain to increase the level.”
He explained this would further allow continued production well after the current rainfall season.
A few kilometres away, some farmers could be seen weeding their maize and bean crop while others were spraying lettuce and cabbages.
“Hail and drought are our biggest worry. We also reduced the production area from six acres to just two because we were not sure about the rain,” one labourer, Samson Phiri, said emphasising the need to invest more on reliable and more meaningful water harvesting facilities.
Poor methods of disseminating weather updates to farmers, is a major concern in most countries in the southern Africa region.
This weakness can be attributed to many farmers’ ill-informed choices of crop varieties to grow, less production and generally, food insecurity in many countries.
Nonetheless, although the heavy rains currently received in Sehlabeng sa Thuoathe would improve levels of dams, some farm labourers like Mothuse Matla said they were now struggling to clear the weeds.
“We started weeding this seven-acre plot last month and, with the current rains, the weeds are spreading and growing fast. We hope to finish clearing before end of this month,” Matla said.
Matla and his colleague charged M1 400 for the work. While the two work in the field owned by a family staying in the city, their wives and children work on their own family plots.
“This is the strategy we came up with to ensure that while we raise a bit of money, our families can run operations on our own plots,” Matla said.