INTERNATIONAL – Zimbabwe’s farmers are urging authorities to undertake cloud seeding to ease an early-season drought that’s hurting crops and destroying cattle pastures.
The four-week dry spell has caused some farmers to delay planting summer crops, which include the country’s staple corn, while those that sowed earlier have seen plants withering in the absence of rain. Zimbabwe has for decades seeded clouds with silver iodide, which can thicken them to encourage rain by cooling water droplets and making them heavier. The science is disputed by some meteorologists.
“We expected a drought, but didn’t think it would be this serious, this early,” said Wonder Chabikwa, the president of the Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union. While it’s too early to estimate the effects on harvests, the government should start cloud seeding to “save the situation,” he said.
Zimbabwe has endured intermittent food shortages since the government began an often-violent program that seized most white-owned, large-scale farms from 2000. The situation has been exacerbated by periodic droughts. Today, the country is a net importer of crops like soy, used as animal feed, and often corn.
Zimbabwe’s meteorological department expects “normal to below normal rainfall” between December and March, it said in an emailed response to questions. Traditionally, rain falls between late November and early April.