Women, Children hit hard by Climate Change in Zimbabwe
By Locadia Mavhudzi
Zimbabwe is experiencing a drought that has left over 2.4 million people in need of food aid.
Government declared a state of disaster following crop failure, death of livestock and loss of livelihoods.
Masvingo province, south east of Zimbabwe is affected by the changing climate and the drought has left families vulnerable, particularly those headed by women and children.
Neliet Mupinga from Chiredzi has sold her six cattle at give away prices of $60 after three of her cattle succumbed to drought. Ordinarily a beast costs $400.
In 2014 and 2015, her district was affected by heavy floods while the 2016 drought will make it three consecutive years of extreme weather.
This, she said, had seriously affected food security in her household.
“The water situation here is bad as most water sources have already dried up. Our cattle started dying as early as March and we sold some at low prices to prevent further losses,” said Mupinga who has four school going children.
Each morning, she and her family of two boys and two girls forage in the nearby forest in search of wild fruits including berries which are soaked and mixed with pounded grains to make porridge.
Its a survival of the fittest and competition is stiff as they compete with other families and wild animals.
(Mupinga pounds grain that will be mixed with wild berries to make porridge)
The porridge is not totally new to them as it has been passed from generation to generation as part of the traditional knowledge system.
Globalisation and modernisation had resulted in some African dishes being forsaken.
Mupinga said her biggest fear was that her children might be forced to drop out of school as a result of increasing hunger and lack of money to pay for their tuition.
Not All Gloomy
For Muripi Baloyi, a community leader, climate smart agriculture has cushioned him from Climate Change.
“We are being trained on climate smart agriculture and encouraged to grow drought resistant crops such as sorghum , millet, round nuts and ground nuts.”
A visit to his fields confirmed that although he did not record a bumper harvest, he and his family will not starve.
Baloyi said farmers needed to heed calls by agricultural experts and environmentalists to start growing small grains.
In the face of many challenges, a local organisation, Chibhememe Earth Healing project is training farmers on sustainable land use and management.
Director, Norman Chibhememe said the programme was meant to raise awareness among farmers on environmental issues.
“We hold training workshops with farmers from different parts of the districts where we teach them about Climate Change and the different ways of adaptation and mitigation. The majority of people we have trained so far are women who seem more willing to participate.”
In addition, the project holds seed fairs and traditional food expos where people showcase their traditional foods and crops.
The fairs and expos usually attract locals and different stakeholders.
In another success story, a farmer in Chivi has boosted his livelihood through water harvesting.
Amon Maseko says it is very important for farmers to engage in water harvesting to combat Climate Change and improve food security.
His farm is like the proverbial oasis in the middle of a dessert.
Maseko’s enterprise is such a success that ‘look and learn’ tours are now being conducted for farmers across the province to draw lessons from him.
“I have made channels across my farm to direct all rainwater to the various infiltration pits and to the small dams that I constructed.”
His family generates income from the sale of different types of fruits and vegetables.
(Farmers on a ‘look and learn’ tour of Amos Maseko’s water harvesting enterprise )
Zimbabwe Civil Society Climate Change working group chairman, Shephered Zvigadza says governments must mobilise sources of substantial long-term climate finance to help developing countries to adapt and embark on low carbon development paths.
Zvigadza believes in Zimbabwe political and policy changes in the farming industry over time have affected the capacity to respond to a changing climate.
In recent years, food production in Zimbabwe has been devastated by a number of factors including natural disasters and economic and political instability. Recurrent drought ( due to increasingly erratic rainfall patterns), a series of poor harvests, high unemployment, restructuring of the agriculture sector and a high HIV/AIDS prevalence rate – at 14.7 percent, – have all contributed to increasing levels of vulnerability and acute food insecurity since 2001. This situation has necessitated large-scale humanitarian food relief operations in the country.
Rural poverty has increased from 63 percent in 2003 to the current 80 percent. Most households in the rural areas are net food buyers: they do not produce enough food to meet their needs through to the next harvest season and as a consequence, have to rely on markets and other non-farm sources such as casual labour to bridge the food gap to the next season.
According to a report published in July 2015 by the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC), some 1.5 million people – 16 percent of the rural population – will have insufficient means to meet their minimum food needs during the 2015-16 lean season, that period prior to the next harvest when domestic food stocks tend to become depleted.
Farmers in Southern Africa are already experiencing changes to their climate that are different in magnitude to what they have experienced in the past.
According to recent reports from the IPCC ,change will be likely to reduce the length of growing season as well as force larger regions of marginal agriculture out of production .Projected reductions in yield in some countries could be as much as 50% by 2020,and crop net revenues could fall by as much as 90% by 2100, with small-scale farmers being the most affected. This would adversely affect food security in the continent.