By Watmore Makokoba
Climate change is no longer a threat, but a sad reality with adverse impact on developing countries and vulnerable groups in disadvantaged communities.
Due to climate change, Zimbabwe is among some of the countries in the world with the highest degrees of rainfall variability characterised by frequent droughts and occasional floods exacerbating under-development, poverty and internal displacements.
Due to these natural disasters, children are more susceptible to these vagaries compared to other vulnerable groups of people.
Susan Phiri ( 9), from Kasvisva village in Chireya, Gokwe North in Zimbabwe’s Midlands Province, leaves home daily for school with a five-litre container of water in addition to the books she will be carrying.
The water she carries to school is required to complete a classroom block under construction.
Susan and other school-going children, spend the larger part of their time doing domestic chores such as fetching water and firewood. When night comes, they will be too tired to concentrate on their studies.
It has been widely embraced that renewable energy sources such as solar and biogas can contribute in averting challenges that children and women face.
In a recent study conducted in Zimbabwe by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) (Children and Climate Change in Zimbabwe), children reported that at times they skip school to collect firewood.
Jackson Mwanza, an 11-year old boy from rural Lower Gweru, explained how difficult it is to interface with parents during times of droughts and food shortages.
“ … for me it’s painful to see my mother suffering to bring food to the table every day, so l make it a point that, that which l can do, like fetching firewood, l will do.”
“When there is no food at home you cannot even talk to (your) parents as they get angry easily. Sometimes you cannot tell them that you have been sent away from school for none payment of school fees because of fear of making them angry.” (quoted from the UNICEF report).
According to the report: “Renewable energy sources such as solar, energy efficient stoves torches/cell phones and biogas technology have great energy potential even to curb water shortages (and) improve the standard of living in disadvantaged communities and impacting positively on women and children, but are greatly under-utilised.
“The National Energy Policy seeks ways to promote optimal supply and consumption of energy in a safe, sustainable and environmentally friendly manner.”
According to the study conducted in partnership with the University of Zimbabwe Institute of Environment Studies, frequent droughts have contributed much to the challenges that children face, especially from rural areas.
“This erratic nature of rainfall patterns has serious adverse impacts with significant consequences on livelihoods, particularly for vulnerable groups like children,” reveals the study.
Research findings from the study reports that drought and consequent acute water and food shortages were identified as major impediments to the welfare of children in rural areas.
Climate change threatens global development and has been cited as the reason for successive droughts and the serious water shortages experienced in the past years. This has resulted in food shortages and poverty, particularly in rural areas where the majority of the population live.
According to the Zimbabwe Statistics Office, 67 percent of the country’s population lives in rural areas and mostly depend on agriculture-based livelihoods.