Put climate change national policy document into action

Peter Makwanya

ZIMBABWE, like any other developing country and a proponent of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), wants to participate in environmental sustainable practices so that it is not left behind.

guest column Peter Makwanya

As such, it came up with a national climate change policy, designed to guide its climate action plans in order to achieve the desired solutions, as a member of the international climate change community of practice.

The national climate change policy requires the nation to operate within the confines of its frameworks in order to improve environmental sustainability and sustainable livelihoods of its people, above all and everything else, to achieve resilience.

Of course, the policy document is not an end in itself, rather it needs implementation. Launching it was one step, while implanting it was another critical and fundamental step, suggesting that it is already operational as we speak.

This policy is designed to manage or overcome the country’s dire situations such as energy crisis, pollution and waste management problems, water scarcity, inorganic agricultural practices, land degradation, deforestation, poverty levels, gender and climate inequalities, flooding issues and climate illiteracy, among a host of many.

These are environmental challenges known not only to Zimbabwe, but around the world. Just like other national acclaimed blueprints before the national climate change policy document, this document faces the danger of non-implementation.

In this regard, the consequences of policy inaction are threatening to spoil the environmental sustainable growth of the country because of quite a number of militating factors, real, imagined, manufactured, perceived or otherwise.

In the event of failure to implement this noble framework, we are not saying the responsible ministry doesn’t know or cannot work. Being able to author such kind of a document was a milestone in itself and they need to be applauded for the job done so far.

What remains now is to put the words into action for sustainable application procedures and processes. It is also in the glaring public domain, that besides high sounding initiatives and information massaging, agricultural productivity is still low, we still have problems with water availability and management issues, food insecurity and unsustainable mining practices that threaten the environment, water bodies in particular.

Despite a number of adequate water sources around the country, quite a number of them are polluted and silted.

This is not the Zimbabwe National Water Authority’s problem and neither is it the Environmental Management Agency’s shortcoming. It stems from the above authorities who are supposed to regulate the activities of the so-called artisanal miners who are now a law unto themselves and also our new investors from the East.

They come and destroy the environment in the name of mining and they leave the land degraded and discharge industrial waste into rivers, ending up in dams, threatening aquatic life in the process.

Despite having very good soils and a temperate climate, many farms have not been fully utilised while inorganic farming is still the norm. Above all, the country is still importing, rather than exporting, electricity.

While the country requires solar energy to mitigate erratic power supplies, the potential of that initiative is still to be realised.

In the media, experts have great ideas on renewable energy, but it ends there. On the ground, people have not yet realised why in the first place they should abandon the use of coal, firewood, paraffin and diesel because solar products are out of reach of many. The costs are too high and prohibitive.

As usual, we are still waiting for investors to save the situation, but these investors only bring money and equipment, not the sun, that is if they ever come at all.

On paper, Zimbabwe has abundant water sources but irrigation is still a far cry from its full potential. Maybe we talk too much while on the ground, but there isn’t enough action to match the prevailing noise.

As a result, this can kill the spirit of the new national climate policy. Because in the framework, the country still has a plan, but it is the implementation which is not forthcoming.

Adaptation and mitigation strategies are spelt out for the climate resilience that we want, but lack of funding and doubting of locally driven initiatives are promoting climate inaction.

Without proper implementation and proactive climate action strategies on the ground, the government would appear as if it doesn’t have a plan, failing to plan or planning to fail.

In the event of a drought, farmers are going to be hard hit due to incapacitation and inability to withstand even minor climate shocks.

Sustainable agricultural practices require up-to-date equipment and expertise which small-scale farmers don’t have.

These farmers’ ability to buy seeds, fertilisers, and chemicals to kill insects is restricted.

Climate change has increased the level of resistance of these insects to chemicals.

Above all, in the absence of adequate water supplies or rain, these farmers who cannot even afford drip irrigation kits which serve water, are left exposed.

Flooding is another area that needs collective engagement. Although the country needs funding, there should also be locally driven initiatives, so that when the floods are upon us, safety nets would be firmly in place to save lives, infrastructure and properties.

A nation that has funding challenges requires the helping hand of the development partners to mitigate the impact of climate change.

Sustainable livelihood programmes should always be on the ground, designed to manage poverty, as the government cannot go it alone.

Climate change affects agriculture more than anything else, yet the people still expect food handouts.

The people’s capacity to cope with climate shocks without adequate cushioning is currently dire.

As much as we fail, stagger and falter, let us always go back to the drawing board and make the national climate policy document our first point of reference.

Peter Makwanya is a climate change communicator. He writes in his capacity and can be contacted on: petrovmoyt@gmail.com