FARMERS have warned that this season’s harvests will fall dramatically if the current heatwave, which has seen crops shrivel due to the sweltering heat, continues.
Summer cropping, which was flourishing in the past months was now in jeopardy due to the persistently high temperatures which have been baking the countryside since the beginning of February. Among the summer crops being cultivated in the lowlands are maize, beans, sorghum and potatoes.
A farmer from Ha Fako on the outskirts of Maseru, Bakoena Thipane, said he is worried his harvest will not come good because of the searing temperatures.
“I had cultivated maize on a two hectare field and normally the harvest is very good,” Mr Thipane said.
“I decided to plough early to avoid complications during the harvesting time. Since we had had the rains in the past months, the crops were growing very well.
“However, the since the beginning of February, we have been experiencing too much heat.”
He said the crops’ leaves had already wilted because of the rapid evaporation and soaring temperatures, adding that if there is no rain soon, this season’s crops might be a write off.
Another farmer, Khahliso Lefalatsa, said they had already revised their harvest projections downwards because of the high temperatures and low precipitation.
“We can only hope and pray that the rains will come soon because we depend on farming for our sustenance,” Mr Lefalatsa said.
’Mantsiuoa Mosola, a farmer from Ha Makhoathi, said she is worried that her beans and potatoes harvest will be undercut by the incessant heatwave.
“In January my crops were very good and some customers were even making pre-orders for the potatoes but, unfortunately, due to this drought I don’t think they will yield much,” said Ms Mosola.
“As for the beans, I don’t think they can reach maturity with this heat.”
Senior Crop Production Officer in the Agriculture and Food Security ministry, Sekhonyana Mahase, said the recently harvested winter cropping wheat was below par due to the heatwave.
“The harvested wheat is highly contaminated with weeds. Obviously the germination was not good due to the current drought,” Mr Mahase said.
“On a one hectare field, a farmer can produce two tonnes of wheat but due to the drought some people only managed to get three 50 kilogramme bags because of the contamination by weeds.
“During summer cropping, the crops were promising until the end of January. Since the beginning of February, we never had rains and this a very critical moment in the crop development stage.
“The maize crops will be in the tussling stage and, due to prevailing drought, the pollination process is not taking place hampering grain formation leading to low yields.”
He said since some of the crops have not yet flowered, if the rains came in time they would still recover. However, Mr Mahase said even in the event they had recovered, they might not reach physiological maturity due to onset of early frost.
He said the same also applies with sorghum, which goes through similar stages of development as the maize crops although situations might differ with the types of soils as some have huge particles that lose moisture faster than others.
The Lesotho Metrological Services announced that temperatures in the lowlands were expected to rise above 30 degrees Celsius from the beginning of this week.
Meteorologist, Retšepile Neko, said their outlook had shown that heatwaves would predominate in early February.
“We had rains until the end of January and, during the first three days of February, the temperatures were very low. This week, we announced that people should expect heatwaves from 9 to 12 February with temperatures expected to rise above 32 degrees Celsius in the lowlands,” Mr Neko said.
“However, today (Thursday) we are expecting some rainfall. On Thursday we are expecting 40 percent rains and Friday there will be 60 percent. Generally, the weather forecast has revealed that there will be more rains in a long term.”