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The Environment: Glimpse of a murky future?



ACCORDING to the latest GIEWS Country Brief on Food Security, harvesting of the 2022 cereal crops currently underway is expected to be completed in early July, later than normal due to a delayed start of the rains.

The cropping season was largely characterised by an uneven temporal distribution of rainfall, with abundant precipitation in January, followed by dry spells in the subsequent months. Total seasonal rainfall amounts were also below average in all provinces.

With the meteorological reports on the extremity of weather conditions in Zimbabwe being recorded every year, the magnitude of an imminent climate catastrophe is evident, the unforgiving tremors of which are already felt. Record-breaking heatwaves, droughts and cyclones are all horrifying manifestations of nature’s wrath.

The environment is wreaking rebellious havoc, avenging the atrocities committed against it by humankind. Thus, it is a matter of pressing urgency that as nations we start addressing the climate crisis rather seriously. The media has been failing to fulfill its role when it comes to climate crisis. There is a serious lag in our response to the emergency, with minimal state action trying to fill in the gap, with neither the media nor the civil society playing an active role in addressing this planetary disaster.

With increased focus on growing the economy and rampaged insensitivity towards common goods, it is of no surprise that the unpredictability of Mother Nature’s behaviour postures retribution.

Here, Zimbabwe becomes an important case point that demonstrates this. The geographical location of the country, given its diverse landscape and thus weather variability, makes it highly sensitive to the climate crisis This sensitivity does not hinge solely on geographical conditions, but also on the socio-economic make-up of the country with agriculture being a significant contributor to the society making up around 65% of total employment.

The above underlines an imperative that highlights that the impending danger pertaining to Zimbabwe’s climate doom most closely afflicts two important aspects: food security and displacement. Their effects are mutually reinforcing.

Food security pertains to the availability of food, in the production of which suitable weather is crucial. Unpredictable weather conditions – rain and heat– negatively impact agricultural yields (both quantity and quality), as well as availability of (rich) agricultural lands, livestock and freshwater.

According to a report by the International Federation of Red Cross Climate Centre 2021, several studies have tried to predict agricultural productivity under the influence of the climate crisis trends that prevail so far. These estimates paint a rather gloomy picture.

One of the studies quotes a decline of approximately 8% to 10% in agricultural yields by 2040, with a temperature increase between just 0.5% to 2%. This implies an exacerbation of the already serious food shortage that afflicts the country as these figures are nowhere to be improved, at least in the near future.

The impact of this is also multifaceted. The spillover from the agri-insecurity can be both quantitative and qualitative. The former includes larger economic impacts, including increased import bills and deficits, unemployment and inequality. The latter includes aspects of multi-dimensional poverty pertaining deeply to health issues such as malnutrition and increased vulnerability to disease.

Moreover, food insecurity does not mainly rest with crop-related agricultural activities but branch out to livestock and fishing inter alia other sub-domains. Extremity and instability of weather conditions leads to stressed out livestock which will consequently reduce dairy and meat production.

Cumulatively, this adds to the vicious circle of poor living standards and inequity in the country. As far as displacement is concerned, when climate change makes living conditions hostile, it creates what are called climate refugees. Zimbabwe witnessed this after Cyclone Idai displaced communities in Chimanimani and surrounding areas.

For people living in extreme hot weather such as those in the Lowveld, they are endangered

with the threat of severe droughts and extreme water stress. With excruciating heatwaves to compound the effect of a lack of basic necessities, these people have to migrate. Most of these move to the urban centres looking for refuge and access to a better life. But given the already dense population concentration in urban centres, scarce resources are further strained, leading to more issues than solutions.

Furthermore, it is of no surprise that Zimbabwe’s urban areas are water-stressed and so climate change is making it worse as it obfuscates water availability, both qualitatively and quantitatively. Lack of rainfall not only results in droughts but also leads to the concentration of pollutants in water, making it unfit for consumption. On the other hand, extreme rain showers not only result in flooding but also flush urban pollutants into groundwater resources thus leading to increased contamination. This may lead to a surge in vector-borne diseases, for example of the cholera and typhoid outbreaks that afflict urban areas mostly during the rainy season.

Given the diversity of landscape and weather conditions, the climate doom in the country is unequivocally varied and context specific but is still looming for the entire nation. For effective appeasement efforts with nature, we must translate our words into action. Awareness is one core aspect, and perhaps an obvious one.

There is a dire need to identify that this existential threat has intensified and affects us at a species level. The main problem lies not more in the issue that afflicts us but in the inability to realise that the problem exists.

Implementation wise, the local government system can play a pivotal role. Its proximity to the context allows it to have a hands-on approach in finding solutions to the problem.

Communication and information gathering can be better; community response and ownership are likely to be prompt and positive. It is also more likely to be resource-efficient, and monitoring can be streamlined and deeply evaluative.

In the end, it all depends on our will to address and rectify, and, our resolve to recognise our lack of seriousness as an integral part of this environmental crisis that we face.

About the writer: Tinashe Kaduwo is a researcher and economist. Contact: kaduwot@gmail. WhatsApp +263773376128