Sustainable Development in Africa & Satellites - page 40

griculture is the mainstay of
the economy in Zimbabwe and
is important for food security
and the economy. Over 70% of the
households in Zimbabwe depend on
rain-fed agriculture for their livelihoods.
Its contribution to the GDP is expected
to increase to 23% in the 2010/2011
season. Agriculture employs about
37% of the labour force and supplies
almost 25% of exports. About half of raw
materials in the manufacturing sector
comes from agriculture. This makes
agriculture monitoring of paramount
importance for both the policy makers
and other stakeholders in the country.
The main crops in Zimbabwe are
maize, sorghum, millet, tobacco, soya
beans, cotton, groundnuts and
beans. The majority of the
population are subsistence
farmers who farm for
with very little going for sale.
These households that make
up about 70% of the population also
have agriculture as the main source of
Rain-fed agriculture in the past has been
affected by climatic variability such as
drought which has improved vulnerability
of the majority in the country. Zimbabwe
basically has got two major seasons,
winter, cold and dry, and summer, hot
and wet, the season when most farmers
plant their crop. Rainfall ranges from
450-1000 mm per annum and is usually
received between October and March.
AMESD helps policy makers
Agricultural monitoring is done by
the Ministry of Agriculture through
the Department of Extension Services
(AGRITEX). This involves the employment
of 4 800 frontline extension workers,
which makes it very expensive. The
department carries out three crop and
livestock assessments per season
and each costs almost half a million
American dollars. This is very expensive
for a developing economy like Zimbabwe
whose GDP based on purchasing power
parity of $ 200 is 8  542. Agricultural
monitoring through earth observations
has a potential to reduce the cost of
monitoring as well as to improve the
accuracy of data collected.
The AMESD receiving station used in
the prediction of drought and rainfall
will greatly help policy makers, who are
the main users of agricultural data, to
plan ahead. For example, at the sign
of a bad season, they want to know
the situation in the whole country. The
station will also be handy in the yield
estimation which has been a challenge
because of the lack of experienced
staff in human estimation.
Whilst earth observations will
not be expected to replace the
usual methodology, they will
complement it and hence improve
the accuracy and timeliness of
data collection.
provides it will be triangulated with
the data from remote sensing.
It is our hope that, after ground
truthing and establishing the level
Maize is the most widely grown crop in Zimbabwe. Its growth is increasingly coming under stress due to high temperature and low rainfall conditions. Climate
change could cause maize yields to decrease dramatically under dryland conditions in some regions, even under full irrigation conditions
Rutendo Nhongonhema
Africa produces about one-third of
the world’s sorghum.
© All rights reserved
Millet (
Pennisetum glaucum
) branched
cluster of flowers, south of Niamey.
© P.Hiernaux
Yields forecasting
38 - Sustainable Development in Africa & Satellites
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