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'Insurance Proofed' Agriculture To Mitigate Impact Of Farmers' Inclement Weather Losses


BY JAMES MUONWA

NOVEMBER 2020 will forever be etched in the memories of many farmers from Mashonaland West, who lost their thriving food and cash crops during hailstorms that hit the province.

The inclement weather conditions left a trail of destruction in their wake, leaving hordes of expectant farmers counting heavy losses, particularly on their maize and wheat crops.

In some instances, the adverse weather, including heavy rains, damaged agricultural inputs such as fertilizers which were soaked, while at one farm roofs of pigsties were blown away.

At Victory Farm's Plot 5, retired army Lieutenant Colonel Usher Cakana lost inputs and grain worth thousands of dollars after a hailstorm destroyed storerooms where he kept 18 tonnes of ammonium nitrate (AN) fertilizer, 12 tonnes Compound D fertilizer, and 20 tonnes of agricultural lime.

At the same property, 20 tonnes of maize, wheat and other crops were reportedly exposed to heavy rains that fell in the area last season.

According to a report by NewsDay, in Banket, also in Mashonaland West province, Elison Murambiwa of Red Milehad an estimated third of his 10-hectare maize field destroyed by hailstorms.

Former Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU) first vice president, Berean Mukwende's farm in Mhangura was also badly affected leaving 100 of his pigs without shelter after roofs of pigsties were blown off.

Another farmer, David Gomba of NewDawn farm report says, was left incapacitated to repay his agricultural inputs loan to government after six hectares of maize were razed to the ground.

He regretted enlisting on the Command Agriculture scheme saying the deal did not provide respite to farmers faced with his scenario.

This week, NewsAnchor trekked down  Gomba to Banket inorder to find out how he had coped following the devastating 2020 farming season.

"Last year was a very difficult year for me. I lost most of my crop when severe hailstorms hit our area.

"I only managed to salvage a few bags of maize for my family's own subsistence. I have a huge debt with government as l had joined the Command Agriculture programme through which l got inputs that l failed to repay. It would be better if l was insured against bad weather," said Gomba.

He says all hopes of hitting the big jackpot through farming had been dashed as this season Gomba only hopes to plant one hectare under maize to feed his wife and children.

Situations such as Gomba's, retired Lt Col Cekana and others, highlight the urgent need for weather-indexed agricultural insurance in the country as climate change takes root.

Insurance is key given the erratic weather patterns and also provides a fall-back position. 

This type of insurance package cushions against natural disasters, fire, accidents and theft.

Regrettably, the majority of local farmers are uninsured prompting observers to raise concern given the potential hazards along the production chain. 

Insurance and Pensions Commission (IPEC) insurance director, Sibongile Siwela said plans were afoot for a weather-indexed insurance scheme.

"We are on the verge of agreeing on terms with a development partner to assist in the weather-based insurance. This is a result of adverse effects of climate change, which the country is faced with.

"We are looking at mitigation measures to reduce the impact of the adverse weather such as compensating the farmer," Siwela told journalists during a recent virtual workshop.

IPEC, with the help of a development partner, is undertaking an 'Insurance Lab' to formulate mitigatory measures to counter climate-related risks like the ones faced by hordes of Mashonaland West farmers, last year.


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