WHILE the concept of climate change is fairly getting appreciation in the country’s communities, very little has been done to get the message of its impacts to the communal farmers whose collective efforts are admittedly contributing to agriculture productivity.
A lot of workshops, meetings and seminars on the subject have been confined to teak furnished boardrooms of hotels in cities and scenic resort towns while an important section of stakeholders who are directly affected by climate change are left out in the countryside.
Cyclones, heat waves, floods, recurrent and extreme droughts as well as crop and animal diseases linked to variations in weather patterns all form an important part of the climate change matrix but very few people in the country’s rural areas are fully aware of the causes of their catastrophe.
Although little can be done now to stop the phenomenon of climate change, educating the country’s rural communities that are usually worst affected remains one of the most important service the country can undertake to at least lessen its effects.
The appreciation in the country that most of its national food stocks is contributed by communal farmers make them an important holder of stake in such programmes to ensure they maximise production, adapt and mitigate against the effects of climate change.
But that they are often left out leaves them in a precarious position and make them less important in deciding not only their fate but the country’s food security and destiny.
The recent Cyclone Idai in Chimanimani and parts of Manicaland and Masvingo Provinces whose effects were seismic and drew sympathy from regional and international organisations is a case in point where despite warnings of the impending disaster communities were caught pants down.
A lot of lives were lost, homes, crops and livestock were destroyed and yet the communities there remain alien to the subject of climate change. Superstitions and spiritual explanations have been proffered by locals in the cyclone ravaged areas much so because there are some unexplained phenomena but one would suggest that the Government and its climate change partners should take that as a conducive launch pad to the scientific subject of climate change.
Climate change management department director in the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement, Mr Washington Zhakata said while it was true that the subject of climate change was still foreign in other communities it was work in progress by the Government and its partners in ensuring everyone was taken on board.
He confirmed that ignorant and marginalised groups were most affected by climate change, hence the need to educate them.
He said climate change was not limited to Zimbabwe or Africa alone but was affecting all regions of the globe. But some places, such as Africa, he said were more vulnerable to climate change’s devastating effects than others.
“It is true that not every community appreciates climate change although its effects are manifesting themselves especially in agricultural productivity with extreme weather conditions and recurrent droughts. We are trying to take farmers and everyone on board.
“Climate change does not affect agriculture alone. Its effects are far reaching and almost every economic sub-sector is affected. We are therefore reaching out to everyone with mitigation and adaptation measures,” said Mr Zhakata.
He said the issue of food security and inclusion of communal farmers was particularly true because of the country and the continent’s very high dependency on agriculture where studies have shown temperature increases and recurrent droughts.
“That the country’s economy is heavily dependent on agriculture is a given. Increases in temperature and rainfall reduction associated with climate change is however, projected to reduce agricultural production and increase the demand for more land and water to compensate for climate stresses,” he said.
He urged the media to report more on climate change and its effects so that word reaches all the corners of the country.
“We appeal to the media to conscientise the public on climate change impacts, adaptation and mitigation as well as educating our societies on preparedness against all types of weather and rainfall patterns,” he said.
Deputy Minister in the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement Cde Vangelis Haritatos said the Government was doing everything to ensure its communities were cushioned against the effects of climate change.
He highlighted that farmers remained important stakeholders in climate change matrix and would continue to be included in issues to do with the subject. He also called on the media to help spread information on impacts of climate change on agriculture for the benefit of the country.
“The degree to which climate change impacts agriculture depends on a number of factors. These include crop types, the scale of the operation, the farm’s commercial or subsistence profile, and the amount of natural resources.
“The Government will remain seized with assuring that all people have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food although this is a formidable challenge. This is not only the case in Africa, but also in other developed nations. The difference lies in the severity of the problem and the proportion of the population it affects,” said deputy minister Haritatos.
Deputy Minister Haritatos said it was abundantly clear that rain-fed agriculture was no longer sustainable as it was buckling under the weight of global changes in climate with projections of low agricultural productivity starting to be apparent.
He said at community level it was important for the country to seriously engage and invest in various water harvesting techniques as part of the basis for irrigation development rather than letting water flow to the ocean when the country needed it for supplementing rain water and see through crops to maturity.
He added that the Government was working round the clock to develop irrigation schemes and revive those that were no longer functional as part of efforts to help farmers in the countryside increase agriculture production in the face of climate change.
The Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said the impact of climate change on food security would be greatest in African nations. Africa has the largest number of malnourished people, the fewest resources to adapt and the fastest growing population to deal with.
In sub-Saharan Africa, 95% of the food is grown under rain-fed agriculture. It is therefore extremely vulnerable to adverse climate conditions projected to reduce rainfall significantly coupled with an increase in temperatures.
IPCC contends that in developed nations, food security is alleviated by providing targeted interventions, including direct food aid in the form of food relief, or indirect subsidies.
“These efforts have been successful in reducing food insecurity in developed nations but have had less success in Africa, which has an insufficient resource base and shorter periods of intervention,” said IPCC.
Climate instability is already causing social unrest in many African countries. The displacement of African people by climate change as in the case with Cyclone Idai in Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi is an unjust consequence that is falling on those poor and vulnerable people who have contributed the least to climate change.
Large-scale mitigation options, along with education about climate change, could help alleviate the impacts of climate change on food security and agriculture in Zimbabwe and the continent at large — although there is a tacit admission that there is still much work to be done.