Zimbabwean Women Small Scale Farmers Lead in Climate Change Adaptation
By Ottis Manyoba
Zimbabwe which is home to approximately 14 million people, most of whom live in the rural areas and depend on farming to sustain their livelihoods has not been spared the effects of Climate Change.
Agriculture is the backbone of the economy and the country was at one time known as the “bread basket of Africa.
But over the last decade, the country has experienced a number of economic, environmental and political shocks, many of which are having long-lasting impacts.
In addition, the country has witnessed a significant reduction in its crop production and access to food in all 60 districts.
It is estimated that 72% of the population live in chronic poverty. That means they live on less than $1.25 a day.
Like many parts of Southern Africa, Zimbabwe was also hard-hit by the effects of El Nino, the drought causing weather phenomenon between 2015 and 2016.
The country reports 2.8 million people—30% of the rural population—are food insecure. Many of these people also live in the driest areas of the country.
In the past, the rains, which are so important for farming, started in October and November and continued through January or February, however these patterns have changed.
Agricultural productivity declined due to effects of Climate Change.
Zimbabwe, a former food secure country is now importing maize from Zambia, South Africa and other countries.
In spite of the recurring challenges of Climate Change some people have managed to adapt to the new conditions and make a living in the hostile environment.
Women’s Farming Syndicate (WFS) in Zimbabwe is involved in different agricultural activities in various regions of the country with representation in more than 150 communities.
Their products include sugar-cane, maize, sorghum and other small grains, coffee, tea, millet, paprika and turmeric among others.
Tsitsi Machingauta the director of the Syndicate says “because of Climate Change, conditions, conditions for farming by women have become very difficult.
“However we have done Climate Change adaptation trainings with our members from the 150 communities that we work with countrywide.”
WFS members have received training in value addition and beneficiation to their products in order to get more revenue from their products.
As a result of value addition, WFS has entered the lucrative export market where their products are being consumed in Zambia, United Kingdom and the USA.
Farmer Petronella Chiunye from Mudzi, in the northern parts of Zimbabwe says the land has been overused and they now depended on fertiliser to get good harvests.
“You can get a tonne of maize from a hectare only if you apply fertiliser. Our soils have been over used.”
She added that Climate Change had greatly affected mainly rural small scale women farmers.
“In the last few years, most farmers’ crops were written off after being affected by drought and heat wave which were linked to El Nino which induces droughts.
“Climate Change affected us in a big way because for over two years, we were buying inputs and spending money on labour but never harvested a single grain”
She said mechanisms that they adopted to cope in an environment of Climate Change included growing small grains, producing small livestock such as goats, generating different income sources and value addition.