Now that the rain season is earnestly upon us the farmer in some of us has been awakened. There are all kinds of farms from the little spot you poach from the city council to the great estates of yore just as there are many types farmers: Real farmers who prefer a hands on approach and part time (weekend) farmers whose exploits are confined to sending messages to their labourers via Facebook and Whatsapp and have never held a hoe in their life. You will have to do the weeding and ploughing on your own but today we will look at some easily available technology and related tips that can aid your farming activities.
That weather is important to farming is a platitude but it can be difficult to get timely, up to date and reliable weather forecasts and alerts. I recommend the Weather Bug app which is freely available for both Windows and Android Phones. Depending on the location of your farm you will have to select the nearest weather station during set up. If you are in doubt just select Kustaga Military weather station. The default behaviour of the App is to show temperature in degrees Fahrenheit you need to change this to degrees Celsius . This app allows you to view satellite images, seven day forecasts and receive alerts for events and weather hazards like Hailstorms ( a single hailstorm can turn your thriving tobacco field into a worthless plain in minutes.)
2. Get your soil tested
Not all soils are the same: different soils require different fertilizers and are suitable for different crops. The default in this country is “when in doubt grow maize.” In order to be a better farmer you will need to have your soil tested by an expert and receive expert opinion from said expert. The University of Zimbabwe faculty of agriculture routinely conducts soil tests and offers advice sometimes for free and sometimes in exchange for a nominal fee. It is my sincere hope somebody will make a handy app from Zimbabwe’s soil map but for now you will need to take the trip to Mt Pleasant and have the soil physically tested.
3. Water resistant Phone/Tablet case/pouch
If you are one for the hands on approach then chances are that one of these days you are going to get caught in the rain and your beloved smartphone/tablet might not survive the event. So when you go out to buy your umbrella (real farmers use raincoats by the way) make sure to buy a water resistant pouch or case for your gadget too. That way you get to keep in touch even during the downpour. If you have access to bucket loads of money you can get a weather resistant rugged phone like the Samsung Immerse but these tend to cost a fortune. You can also buy the Samsung S4 Active or Sony Xperia Z both of which are weather proof for reasonable prices online.
4. Get both rechargeable and Solar lamps
We have all heard about the virtues of the Econet solar lamp but I have to tell you from experience when the sun is not shinning for days on end you will be lucky if you get a weak glow let alone charge your phone. In you have a fear for the dark like myself then you might need to get a rechargeable lamp as well-preferably one that you can use to recharge your phone.
5. Get one of those basic phones
Whenever I go to my farming plot I swap my cool phone for the basic Nokia 1208 which can go for days on end without the need to recharge.
If you are one of those weirdos with an actual farm with tractors and other farm vehicles you might find this app useful. It will help you keep track of your fuel and maintenance costs. For example how much fuel does it take to plough and harrow field B? You can also find other useful farming apps here.
I wish you a happy farming season although I must warn you your back will not find the season happy at all. Now go on and grow them!
Main picture via the Zimbabwean