Politics & General News

Human induced climate change impacts on food security

MAIZE is life’’ to many of Zimbabwe’s most vulnerable. While the production of cereal crops has tripled in the last 50 years in the developing world, with only a 30 percent increase in cultivated land area, the impact of improved varieties has largely by passed Southern Africa (excluding South Africa). Maize production in this region is the lowest in the world, yet its food security is highly dependent on maize.Even worse, Zimbabwe’s vital food producers face a risk of being overwhelmed by the pace and severity of climate change.
Agricultural experts have called for the adoption of climate-smart agriculture that will make crops and livestock more resilient to future extreme weather events. Stephen Chauke lives in droughtprone Malipati area in Chiredzi district of Masvingo Province. For the past 10 years, life has been difficult for Chauke and other smallholder farmers in this harsh, semi-arid environment. ‘’There are no good rains to talk about, anymore,’’ Chauke told visiting journalists recently.
The rains in his area were too little, too late. Smallholder farmers in Malipati will need urgent food assistance to carry them to the next harvest season in May and June next year. Parts of Zimbabwe are experiencing unpredictable weather. Zimbabwe’s Meteorological Services Department said in October last year the country would experience an El Nino induced drought resulting in erratic rainfall and a below average to normal rainfall season.
‘’We’re no longer sure when to start preparing the land for planting or when to start planting. It’s pretty much gambling with nature,’’ says Chauke, adding, “Some of us who have small farms and without access to irrigation will suffer most from the on-going dry spell.’’
Masvingo Province experienced a prolonged dry spell from mid-January to February, affecting crops due to moisture stress. However, farmers in Ndanga in Zaka, Morgenster in Masvingo and Silveira and Nyika in Bikita districts received relatively good rainfall last week. Crops in these areas are thriving as maize is at soft dough stage. Cowpeas and roundnuts are at reproductive stage. Midlands Province is grappling with the prolonged dry spell, with farmers now facing an uncertain future. Their crops continue to wilt as they watch, helplessly.With the last meaningful rainfall received over a month ago, farmers who planted in early January, are anxiously praying for rains as a reprieve in the next seven days to salvage their crops.
As the Midlands province braces for the potential impact of a failed maize harvest, the collective hope remains pinned on the heavens opening up, with farmers eagerly awaiting the much-needed rains to save their crops and livelihoods.
The province had targeted 350, 000 hectares out of the national target of two million hectares of maize for the 2023/24 cropping season. Matebeleland South Province farmers have also started counting their losses as they have been hardest hit by the dry spell.Minister of Provincial Affairs and Devolution, Eveline Ndlovu, said this is a serious drought year.

“We are having a massive drought which needs serious planning,’’ she said, adding, ‘’the only crop that might survive in our province are those under irrigation schemes.”
Acting Provincial director for Agriculture Rural Development Services, Mkhunjulelwa Ndlovu confirmed that the crop situation was critical.
“For our farmers to be productive and ensure food security, we need to build resilience to help them mitigate the onset of climate change,” observed agricultural expert Ndlovu..Crops wilted due to the prolonged dry spell across most parts of Mashonaland West Province, making it likely that harvests will decline.For example, Nigel Chivembe, Zvimba district smallholder farmer’s maize crop is a complete write off. He regrets not practicing Pfumvudza/Intwasa, a climate smart agriculture technology being promoted by the Government and other development partners.
“I regret not embarking on the Pfumvudza programme, as my neighbouring farmers who practiced the technology are hoping to get a good harvest despite the unfavourable dry conditions,’’ said Chivembe. As a result, Chivembe will be forced to buy grain to feed his family.
In addition to anticipating decreased maize yields, farmers in the sweltering heat of Hwange district in Matabeleland North Province have been hit by a double-edged sword- less maize yields due to the drought and their crops being destroyed by wildlife, especially marauding elephants.
Councilor Givemeagain Moyo, of Kachechete Ward in Hwange district said: “We may have a good harvest but our main worries are the elephants and the baboons which graze in our land and eat the farm produce.’’
However, all is not doom and gloom. As the livestock and crop assessment exercise reached its final stages two weeks ago, indications are that Mashonaland East Province could register good yields, Agricultural Advisory and Rural Development Services (AARDS) director Leonard Munamati says.
“From the preliminary findings, expectations are high that Mashonaland East will be in a position to produce a meaningful harvest in Marondera, Goromonzi and Murehwa districts,’’ said Munamati.
In Mashonaland Central Province, the crop condition is fair and the bulk of the crop is at late vegetative stage, so says the acting provincial crops and livestock head, Daniel Kampiyao.
But districts in the Zambezi Valley had been affected by the dry spell. These are Mbire, Muzarabani, Mt Darwin and Rushinga.
“We are talking about when the rain does not come at the right time or the length of the [growing] season, which should be about 180 days, is shortened as a result of drought,” he told New Ziana.

“What we need to help farmers do is to be able to adopt good land management practices and improve seed stocks,

with drought-resistant varieties. Climate change, and what’s going on with our weather is really putting our food supply at risk,’’ he said.Kampiyao said that food production is being affected by climate change. He therefore called for agricultural technologies that can withstand climate change impacts such as prolonged droughts and nutritional insecurity.
‘’New technologies should give higher yields but that is not enough. Newer technologies should also build calories, and stress tolerances against drought and heat,’’ Kampiyao said, noting that they should be resilient to climate change.

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