Flood victims receiving aid in Tsholotsho

By Tapiwa Makosa

Research has revealed that, a global temperature increase of about 1.5 degrees Celsius will have adverse impacts on the Zimbabwe and southern Africa as a whole with food security being the predominant challenge.

The world is aiming at temperatures between 1.5 -2 degrees Celsius, for southern Africa this translate to almost a double increase in temperature, with the region getting 3 – 4 degrees warmer than it is currently.

Zimbabwe, like most African countries, has an agro-based economy, “with over 70 percent” of the citizen resident in rural areas and “dependant on climate-sensitive livelihoods.”

According to the Zimbabwe’s National Climate Change Response Strategy (ZNCCRS), “the impacts of Climate Change are likely to stall the country’s development, pose a serious risk to food security and adaptive capacity.

“Both Climate Change and policies to minimize its effects have enormous socioeconomic and environmental implications”

Here we take a look at a few reasons why Zimbabwe should join the fight to keep the global temperature from rocketing beyond the 1.5 degree Celsius mark.

Temperature

As the term global warming implies, temperatures are set to continue rising, as research show that since 2014 each year that proceeded was a recordable ‘hotter’ than the previous.

In Zimbabwe, the period between 1980 to date has been the warmest. The annual mean surface temperature of Zimbabwe in  the 20th Century warmed by about 0.40 degrees Celsius.

The increase in warming will mostly affect regions that are already regarded as arid or semi-arid. Areas in farming  Regions IV and V will be greatly affected as temperatures will soar making life more unbearable than it is already.

Professor Bob Scholes of the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa said the interior of Southern Africa will warm up at double the global rate.

“SADC interior is warming up at twice the global rate, hence when the global says between 2 degrees Celsius, Zimbabwe should think it as 4 degrees Celsius.”

Food Security

According to the World Bank Report, an increase of 1.5 – 2 degrees Celsius, coupled with drought and aridity “will contribute to farmers losing 40-80 percent of cropland conducive to growing maize, millet, and sorghum by the years 2030s-2040s.”

Seasons have become less predictable with the ZNCCRS acknowledging that, “the last 30 years have shown a trend towards reduced rainfall or heavy rainfall and drought occurring back to back in the same season.

The frequency and length of dry spells during the rainy season have increased while the frequency of rain days has declined.”

The annual precipitation may decrease by up to 30 percent in southern Africa if the world is going to be warmer by 4 degrees Celsius, reported the World Bank.

The 2016/17 season was characterised by heavy flooding in most parts of the country due to the La-Nina effects, yet the country was coming from an El-Nino induced drought in the 2015/16 season.

However the country is expecting a bigger harvest, after a long period, of about 2.7 million tonnes of cereal after a government “adaptation program” is proving to be fruitful.

According to Professor Bob Scholes, increase in temperatures will affect maize production as temperature is key to the crops’maturity.

“Temperature plays  a critical role in maize production and has a bigger influence on the crop’s maturity than rain itself. This means places that had been colder before like Canada can produce more grain than Zimbabwe, but globally the production goes down.”

Livestock

Animal production will not spared from the effects of Climate Change as animal behaviour is severely affected by drastic changes of the climate.

An increase in temperature may translate to more cases of heat stresses due to heat waves as most stock is kept in open space grazing lands. Floods and droughts can wipe out whole herds.

The World Bank notes that, “ecosystem changes to pastoral lands, such as a shift from grass to woodland savannas as levels of carbon dioxide increase, could reduce food for grazing cattle.”

Less food will translate to lack of livestock feed resources during the dry season. This have been a traditional and perennial challenge for farmers in Zimbabwe and will be exacerbated.

Extreme Weather Events

Whereas droughts and flooding cannot be fully attributed to Climate Change, it is their frequency and severity which can be linked to the Climate Change.

It can be argued that the El-Nino/La-Nina phenomenon has been occurring over a longer time, the frequency and the absurdity thereof is linked to Climate Change.

A pupil aproaches a flooded river in Sanyati. Picture by Edith Dongozi.

According to FAO, the El Niño-induced droughts reportedly left four million people needing food aid during the 2015/2016 agricultural season.

This year, good rains had raised hopes of a decent harvest, but now the fall armyworm is dashing them for many farmers.

Droughts usually affect food security, but flooding brings other problems which include infrastructure destruction.

The flooding of major rivers and dams during the 2016/2017 season led to the destruction of at least 2 major bridges and 7 dams and left thousands homeless.

Hundreds of people were left homeless, and children not able to go to school, in places like Tsholotsho in the Matebeleland Region, as floods destroy homes and school buildings.

Such occurrences are likely to be predominant if the world’s average temperature rises above the 1.5 degrees Celsius.

New Pests

A change in temperature regime means new pests starts breeding in areas they did not before. This pest migration, affects crops and other plants hampering on efforts that would have been made in agriculture.

The 2016/2017 season saw the outbreak of Chilo worms in the whole country. Seed Co, which is the Zimbabwe’s’ largest seed producer, said the pest was once isolated in low lying and hotter areas of the country but this all changed in the 2015/2016 season after temperatures increased.

“The Chilo worm known by a scientific name Chilopartellus belongs to a group of stem borers that attack cereals like maize, sorghum and sugarcane.”

A maize plant destroyed by Fall armyworm

The fall armyworm, which is almost untreatable once it passes the larvae stage, also did great damage.

This worm was only detected in Africa just over a year ago but it has found conducive breeding ground that it affected maize crops in more than 12 countries, reported IRIN.

Unlike its cousin the African armyworm, Spodoptera exempta;  the fall armyworm, Spodoptera frugiperda, does not respond to the current regime of pesticides making it a menace to crops.

FAO Sub-regional Coordinator for Southern Africa David Phiri warned that controlling the pest can be a tall order as “no single method or product has been found to completely eradicate the fall armyworm.”

If temperatures are to increase, nobody knows what other pests might start breeding in Zimbabwe increasing the damage to an already under pressure food sector.

Malaria and other diseases

Malaria is the third leading cause of illness and mortality in Zimbabwe, with most victims being women and children.

Strides have been made to reduce its spread but the re-emerging of malaria vector, the anopheles funestus, which is resistant to pyrethroids, a cheap residual spray, is a cause of concern.

An Anopheles mosquito is the known pathogen of malaria in Africa

According to the UNChronicle, Climate Change “will increase the opportunities for malaria transmission in traditionally malarious areas, in areas the disease has been controlled, as well as in new areas which have been traditionally non-malarious.”

It argues that, “Climate Change greatly influences the El Niño cycle that is known to be associated with increased risks of some diseases transmitted by mosquitoes, such as malaria, dengue, and Rift Valley fever.

“In dry climates, heavy rainfall can provide good breeding conditions for the mosquitoes. Increased humidity, droughts may turn rivers into strings of pools, the preferred breeding sites of mosquitos.”

Historically Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, was situated on a kopje, a cool high place away from malaria breeding zones, but with the gradual warming of the atmosphere mosquitoes have buzzed their way up the hill.

At the start of the 2016/2017 rain season Harare was plagued by Typhoid and Cholera outbreaks which are all water borne-diseases. The outbreak saw at least 10 cases being recorded. Such occurences can become a common feature if we do not formulate lasting solutions.

“These problems will be exacerbated by the inability of many communities to cope with increased disease. In many African urban settlements, population expansion has outpaced the capacity of municipal authorities to provide civic works for sanitation and other health delivery services.”

It is imperative for Zimbabwe to be active in the fight with the little it has for the Climate Change cause.

Feedback: brotapmak@gmail.com or Climateaccckf@gmail.com

Featured Photo from: NewsDay