By Ishmael Sunga
One of the key highlights of February is the good rains that fell in most of the southern African region.
All indications are that this season will not be a drought year. Apart from adequate food supplies, good rains always bring with them a feeling of optimism in overall economic performance, given the intricate connection that farming has, directly or indirectly, with the economies of most countries in the region. However, the optimism of a good season was almost wiped out by the invasion of the Fall Armyworm which affected some countries in the region to a lessor or greater extent.
Current indications however suggests that the Armyworm menace did not cause as much damaged as originally feared. The region does not have to worry much about feeding its people, and there will be enough throughput to keep the wheels of industry turning, and all the commerce that goes with it.
However, unlike in the last season in which the region had a “dry” problem, the rains that fell in February were so incessant that some parts of the region are now experiencing a wet problem, so to speak.
In some cases, the rains left a trail of destruction, including waterlogging and washing away of crops, and livestock, roads, bridges and dam walls. Other critical infrastructure such as schools and clinics were not spared.
The two calamities in the form of incessant rains and the army worm go a long way to show how risky the business of farming can be. Even with all the advancement in science, technology and other capabilities for prediction, many were caught unaware, and there may be many more in this regard.
The point is, farmers, being at the frontline of production, always bear the brunt of such misfortunes. Unfortunately, when farmers are not able to produce, whole nations suffer. Yet quite often farmers have to shoulder the risk or burden alone.
We argue that such problems should not be for farmers alone to face. Everyone in the value chain should take some responsibility. Increased public sector investment in climate infrastructure including early warning systems targeted specifically on farming and weather based insurance would be a good starting point.