Many developing countries are often confronted with dire climatic situations that they could sometimes have avoided due to poor planning or failure to do so.
Failure to factor the aspect of climate change into their long-term developmental planning normally leaves countries, especially developing ones, more vulnerable to droughts, floods, famine and power shortages, among others. Developing countries are often hit hard as if they don’t have resources to plan or as if they plan to fail or both.
It is quite a pity that developing countries always appear as if they are investing into failure by not taking seriously the aspect of climate change into their long-term investment initiatives which would make them more resilient and rather climate-proof. Many developing countries always hide behind the natural phenomena when the effects of climate change are upon them.
In most cases, these countries always draw comfort from the fact that they are not the only ones being ravaged by climate-induced drought or El Niño. We often hear utterances like, “Zimbabwe is suffering from the drought which the whole of Southern Africa is experiencing due to the effects of climate change and El Niño.” Yes, it’s true that the whole of Southern Africa is experiencing drought but some countries are being hit hard more than the others due to poor planning.
Right now, Zimbabwe is importing grain from Zambia and South Africa, countries which are in the same region with us.
These countries are also suffering from the effects of climate change and El Niño, but they did not invest into failure since they have enough food stocks to feed their people. We must at the same time look back and reflect on where we need to smarten up in terms of our failure to plan accordingly, so that we avoid living at the mercy of other countries.
It is has always been the case that countries that fail to plan strategically, always react whenever things would have gone bad. It has always been a given that, at some point, countries will experience drought, El Niño, La Nina or whatever but if these natural phenomena find you already in a compromised situation, then you will cry the loudest.
As such, long term climate information is necessary for climatic growth and literacy. Therefore, poor use of climate information or erratic planning may retard countries in their ability to fight vulnerabilities to effects of droughts or floods.
Many developing countries appear to be blind and ignorant on issues that have to take into account future communities’ shock absorbers into their developmental programmes. You do not think of building more dams whenever the existing ones are running dry. National water bodies that are proactive usually invest seriously in water reservoirs that would become handy when the situation is no longer favourable so that people can engage in irrigation. To start telling us stories when things have already got out of hand is particularly disempowering.
Planning in advance, I mean sustainable long term planning always cushions the country against vices of nature. The nature of planning that combines knowledge of future climatic scenarios is significantly lacking in many developing countries.
It is always important for countries to revisit their planning shortcomings rather than to mourn about the natural phenomena which always have to take place anyway because it’s a natural order. Learning from past failures would go a long way in empowering nations for the future, instead of passing the buck. Local climate-related long term planning is not very much binding in developing countries due to erratic implementation and lack of patience.
Our major undoing as a nation is that we have an insatiable appetite for immediate gains without enduring the normal cycle. When we grow crops, we always hope to harvest them within weeks, if not days, we are so interested in harvesting without putting the required effort than the actual process, pfimbi yegudo (half-baked). Any planning programme that fails is devoid of patience, any national programme that we embark on impulsively and for populist purposes will be deeply rooted in impatience of the highest magnitude. When things fail to add up because of poor planning, judgment and guidance we start to blame others for the dearth of our own foresight.
What we lack in our society are climate champions or climate heroes that drive the climate agenda through selfless and sustainable, vibrant and robust holistic planning that transforms this country into the self-sustenance that we always yearn for.
It is the climate change agenda that should always be at the heart of any country’s sustainable development and strong backing is needed from the country’s leadership. Clear and genuine communication of climate information will always bear fruit and open up channels for result-based initiatives.
Climate planning and climate-related decision-making are becoming more paramount nationally and internationally. We need to move away from decision making processes that cripple our desire to achieve climate-friendly goals. Policy planners can always ignore the possible effects of poor planning at their own peril but will not stop the world from seeing their glaring shortcomings.
Future climate risks should always be kept under lock and key or we should engage in continuous monitoring in order to withstand the effects of disasters. As such, the government is in a reliable position to predict climate futures and act accordingly to avoid national, regional if not global embarrassment.
If we can continue on this unfavourable path as a nation, then we are going to witness the first ever disappearing of one of our largest lakes because of climate change and its recovery will not come easy. It is also surprising that even NGOs did not forsee the deterioration of water levels at Lake Kariba coming because most of them are not into long-term planning. They want to engage into short-term planning that are not normally locally based or people centred. When they fail to achieve, they quickly pack their bags and go, leaving the people to suffer.
It is important that NGOs, the private sector and government should sit together and map the country’s climate-friendly path together for sustainable development rather than moving in different directions. When things fail to add up then they start finger pointing while communities bear the brunt of climate change, poor planning or not at all.
●Peter Makwanya is a climate change communicator. He writes in his capacity and can be contacted on: firstname.lastname@example.org