Women in Tsholotsho feel the pinch of climate change


by Thandeka Matebesi

Miss Chelesani Ndlovu is a single mother of three residing with her mother in Ward 13 area in Tsholotsho, Matabeleland North. Every October she starts her farming preparations despite the fact that for the past two consecutive seasons there has been erratic rainfall which comes mostly around December and January.

Ndlovu, and many others like her who do not have access to farming equipment such as ox drawn ploughs and tractors first have to till the land and dig shallow holes in the first weeks of October and then start planting soon after. She says she does this so that when the rain comes the seed will already be in the ground ready to germinate.

“We start our planting preparations in October every year, especially those of us who do not have resources we use our hoes. Those who have households get donations of seed but I don’t get anything because I don’t have a home of my own. When there are adequate rains others who are like me store part of the maize harvested as seed but there is no rain now so people have to buy and honestly I can’t afford these prices” said Ndlovu.

Tsholotsho Rural District Council Chairperson Councillor Esau Siwela said villagers were living under difficult conditions as a result of the effects of climate change.

“The situation is very difficult for most people, normally Nongovernmental Organisations based in Tsholotsho do come to our aid, however, they reduced their donations from 70 to 35 percent. We hope that they can review this because those removed are also suffering”, Councilor Siwela said.

"Also most boreholes in Tsholotsho are not functional, we do not have water for ourselves and our livestock. We get seed donations but for most of us it was wasted because we planted and there was no rain. We wish the government could also chip in with programmes that can improve our livelihoods, because as it is we cannot afford stock feed and maize," said Siwela.

The Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement has been on record saying that agriculture development is a necessity and a near sufficient condition for economic recovery and development of Zimbabwe.

The sector has the potential to contribute between 16-20% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP); provides for 60% of raw materials required for the manufacturing sector; 40% to exports; and feed the country while providing the source of livelihood for 67% of the country’s populace that reside in rural areas as smallholder farmers.

However, as noted by Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement deputy minister Vangelis Haritatos ,climate change has remained the most destabilizing challenge to the agricultural sector in Zimbabwe.

“It is now apparent and clear that climate change negatively affects food security and water supply resulting in reduced crop yields as evidenced by the sector's inability to meet the national requirements for strategic commodities," said deputy minister Haritatos.

Recently, the Government announced that it was preparing for the worst ahead of the 2020/2021 farming season as a result of severe climate change effects.

Haritatos also said the Government has moved towards climate proofing agriculture through the promotion of sustainable agriculture practices which are more resilient to extreme weather shocks and coming up with programmes which support women and youth participation.

"At the core of our Agricultural Recovery Plan is our answer to climate smart agriculture through the concept known as Pfumvudza. The Pfumvudza program is a measure to address the problem of low production and productivity caused by successive poor rainfall seasons, prolonged mid-season, and early cessation of the rains and poor agronomic management practices, among other factors.

"The program is based on conservation agriculture principles to climate proof our agriculture. The program targets particularly the smallholder farmers who are most vulnerable to such calamities and vagaries of climate change, with the end goal of ensuring food, nutrition, and livelihood security. This year the Presidential Inputs Scheme will be implemented under conservation agriculture principles in order to ensure that the agricultural sector is truly climate proofed," said Haritatos.

Other interventions of mitigating climate change include: encouraging the use of renewable energy; the use of climate smart seed which is also drought, heat, disease, and pest resistant; the promotion of small ruminants which are more sustainable under these climatic conditions; the promotion of traditional grains and legumes; to name but a few interventions.