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Zimbabwe Facing Another Drought

Farmers in Zimbabwe say they face another difficult agricultural season, as the dry spell that has hit the country continues.

Weeks into the agricultural season, the rains are nowhere near normal and the crops are showing it. Zimbabwe Farmers Union Director Paul Zakariya tells VOA even crops that normally thrive under dry conditions are feeling the heat.

"We are looking at maize [corn], we are looking at cotton and, in some instances, it's also the tobacco and the other small grains which naturally will be resisting or would be tolerant but they are already succumbing," he said.

The situation is worsened by the fact that even parts of the country that receive normal rainfall are also affected by the prolonged dry spell. Zakariya says, even if the country's normal rains started falling again, most of this season's crops are a write-off.

"Regions in the south … we could actually safely say they have lost their crop. And, if we had rains today, we would be looking at a situation where we are salvaging 50 percent to 60 percent of the crop. So it's quiet bad," he said.

Zakariya added that, although last year's harvest was better than the years before, the country would still have needed help, even if the rains had been normal this year.

"In terms of preparedness for the season, we were prepared but probably not adequately, because fertilizers in fact generally inputs were not readily available," he said. "The situation would have been a lot better, but to say Zimbabwe would have had a good harvest that would satisfy the whole nation - that would be maybe stretching things a little bit."

Zimbabwe formerly was an exporter of food, but has depended on food aid and imports to meet its grain shortfalls, in the past decade. This has been mostly because of unreliable rainfall and the failure of government to support agriculture after the land reform program launched in 2000. That exercise saw white farmers losing their farms for the resettlement landless blacks.