It has been a challenging experience to formulate a policy that is cross-cutting in nature and complementary to many of our national development policies for Environment, Water and Climate minister Saviour Kasukuwere.
WISDOM MDZUNGAIRI VIEWPOINT
Having represented Zimbabwe in a range of high-level international and regional climate change negotiations and engaged in a wide range of issues relating to climate change and disaster risk reduction, Kasukuwere, who had little or no knowledge on environmental issues, must be pleased that we now have a draft National Climate Change Policy to address this important sustainable development issue.
The development of this policy is a milestone and perhaps that explains the recent hiring of climate experts by the ministry to bolster the climate division, which for several years had only one individual.
The constructive guidance and mentoring of the ministry’s Secretary Prince Mupazviriho in ensuring the drafting of this policy is implemented without delay, and that the policy is purposeful, focused, relevant, and addressing the needs of Zimbabwe must be acknowledged. The contributions of secretaries of other line ministries should be equally recognised.
Suffice to say, constituting a ministry for championing the cause of climate change adaptation, disaster risk reduction and mitigation for Zimbabwe should spur the new department in its untiring efforts to help farmers lessen effects of global warming.
The draft came as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) last week produced the most comprehensive assessment of climate change ever — a succinct guide to the assessment for decision-makers in Africa.
It speaks well to our efforts to place climate change issues top of our development agenda especially as stakeholders want to find out what’s in it for Zimbabwe? After going through the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report: What’s in it for Africa? I was left with no doubt that it distils the richest material on climate impacts and trends in Africa including Zimbabwe, and African experiences in adaptation and mitigation.
It is hoped that Kasukuwere’s new department will make IPCC’s important material more accessible and usable to local farmers as the guide to wide demand for region-specific information.
Interestingly, a good number of the lead researchers are Zimbabweans in the Diaspora and locals, who may have been overlooked due to pettiness of some bureaucrats. Global warming is a different animal its either we mitigate or we sink with our eyes wide open. Inclusiveness is the answer — difference of opinion does not mean opposition so to speak — (and so) these scientists must be given a chance to chat the way for the country, the farmers the majority of whom depend on agriculture.
Judging by what Zimbabwe experienced only last year, Africa’s climate is already changing and the impacts are already being felt, hence the IPCC report found beyond any reasonable doubt that the Earth’s climate is warming.
Global warming will have widespread impacts on our societies and interaction with the natural environment than ever before. Previous reports pointed out that since the 1950s the rate of global warming has been unprecedented compared to previous decades and millennia. And, this report presents a long list of changes that scientists have observed around the world chief among them being the average increase in the temperature of the Earth’s surface hovering around 0,85 degrees Centigrade (°C) since the 1900s.
In Zimbabwe and much of Africa, changing rainfall patterns have altered freshwater systems, affecting the quantity and quality of water available, the farming seasons and agriculture produce much to the detriment of the economy.
Whether we like it or not, current science provides the clearest evidence yet that human activity is changing our climate due to the destructive nature of our actions, and sadly, the impacts have and will continue to affect food security, water availability and human health in the country significantly.
Given the interdependence between countries today, the impacts of climate change on resources or commodities in one place will have far-reaching effects on prices, supply chains, trade, investment and political relations in other places.
Thus, climate change will progressively threaten economic growth and human security and that is why the national climate change policy must be inclusive.
The health, livelihoods and food security of people in Africa in general, and Zimbabwe in particular, have been affected by climate change.
There is evidence that temperature changes have played a role in the increased incidence of malaria, and have already driven changes in the practices of our farmers.
Production of wheat and maize has been impacted by climate change, as has the productivity of fisheries of the Great Lakes and Lake Kariba and fruit-bearing trees in the Sahel. The impacts from recent weather-related extremes, such as heat waves, droughts, floods, cyclones and wildfires, reveal the exposure and vulnerability of people and economies to climate.
Floods in the Zambezi Valley displaced 90 000 Mozambicans in 2008, some permanently.
These experiences of extreme weather events in different parts of Africa highlight the risks to human wellbeing. Besides, the economic losses due to extreme weather events are also rising with the increasing frequency of events and increasing exposure of assets.
True, the abundance of species has changed, as have interactions among species. The pace of change has been rapid. Climate change has already led to changes in freshwater and marine ecosystems in eastern and southern Africa, and terrestrial ecosystems in southern and western Africa.
The displacement of over 20 000 people by Tokwe-Mukosi floods is a very good example of what global warming can do.
These climatic risks threaten millions of lives and their economic prosperity besides having potential to throw the country into civil strife.