In recent weeks, small holder farmers have complained how the Covid-19 pandemic is affecting them and what their concerns are as they approach the 2020-2021 cropping season.
Hiccups in the seed and fertiliser distribution systems and disruptions by the Covid-19 pandemic have players in agriculture worried of a negative impact on preparations for the September planting season A.
What is more, there are even fears of food insecurity come 2021. The scarcity and subsequent high cost of agriculture inputs like seeds, fertilisers and agricultural equipment mean many farmers will not plant crops as usual, while others will grow far less volumes compared with past years.
Due to the closing of borders and other Covid-19 related restrictions have greatly affected timely importation of agricultural inputs like fertilisers, seeds and equipment.
This has also led to increased prices of these items and because of this many farmers did not venture into buying these inputs for season A.
The pressure exerted on household incomes by Covid-19 restrictions and lockdowns for the better part of this year ended up forcing many to consume the seeds that are normally put aside for planting, lessening the quantities for season A. Many are selling the inputs, both seeds and fertilizers, to be able to feed their families.
Beginning September, the government ceded seed multiplication and distribution to the private sector, something farmers had concerns with, citing unpreparedness of the private sector to handle such a sensitive sector.
Therefore this myriad of challenges makes it hard for small-holder farmers to sustain their livelihoods if the government does not intervene to address the issues at hand. Many farmers risk of losing all their dry season investments as a result of the lockdown due to Covid-19.
It is essential that measures are implemented to minimise the shock of the pandemic and its related effects on small holder farmers as failure would increase the risk of food insecurity.
Already, there are concerns about the amount of rainfall with below the normal rainfall range expected and could be shorter during the planting season, raising fears of a prolonged dry spell.
While farmers are encouraged to start planting early, under the current circumstances where there a general limited access to agro outputs which are not only expensive but also difficult to access, the country is facing the real threat of many farmers not planting within the expected time.
As the country continues to grapple with the adverse impact of Covid-19, the government should ensure that the agriculture sector in particular small-holder farmers get the help to save the source of livelihoods.
And unlike many workers that have been able to continue working remotely, small holder farmers do not have smartphones or the means to hold virtual meetings that would help them coordinate their season activities.
As result, they are forced to rely mostly on government officials for information and supply of agro inputs as few private players in the sector operate efficiently.