Contributing towards resilient capacities to vulnerable communities

guest column:Peter Makwanya

BUILDING resilience in vulnerable populations requires helping them to improve their coping capacities to climate change.

This would also enable them to adapt their livelihoods as well as improving their governance systems. The reason is that future problems of this nature should be avoided, hence serious lessons have to be learnt and they empower vulnerable communities to move ahead.

Resilience can be simply defined as the ability of individuals, households, communities and systems to anticipate, cushion, adapt, bounce back better and move on from the effects of shocks and hazards in a manner that protects livelihoods.

In this regard, resilience is not only an individual event, but a collective process which requires a multi-sectorial approach in order to deliver results and strategies that contribute the strengthening of national livelihoods.

Vulnerable communities need to minimise exposure to inherent shocks and stresses through nationally-driven preventive measures which enable them to cope and recover quickly in order to avoid negative and long lasting impacts. This means that communities should participate in risk management by being able to absorb impacts of climate-related shocks.

The country suffered from shocks caused by Cyclone Idai and also perennial floods in Binga and Tsholotsho including parts of Muzarabani.

There is inherent lack of capacity to strengthen and maintain informal safety nets, knowledge of peace-building and conflict resolution strategies in order to create a cohesive society, live peacefully and solve environmental problems.

Micro-finance organisations are also important in strengthening household savings in order to create capital base.

The ability to make proactive and informed choices about alternative livelihood strategies based on understanding climate change conditions is paramount.

This includes livelihood diversification, asset accumulation and improved social and human capital.

Zimbabwe has been facing problems of deforestation for quite some time and even the reforestation programmes by the country, NGOs and other implementing partners don’t seem to work properly.

Deforestation is caused by illegal mining activities, uncontrolled forest fires and the need for new land for agricultural production. Land degradation is caused by uncontrolled small-scale mining activities, urban expansion and building on wetlands.

Many Zimbabweans, especially women, don’t own immovable assets which would help them improve their coping capacities. Many of them don’t have title deeds to land, livestock ownership including houses and other useful buildings like shops.

Women also don’t have more access to credit facilities and information communication technological tools for information sharing.

The main point of focus in this regard is long lasting resilience at household and community levels. Some of the programmes at household and community levels include food insecurity in Zimbabwe, over 10 years, ranging from 12% to 60% with varying degrees.

Food insecurity, malnutrition and environmental degradation are main problems in Zimbabwe, especially in rural areas.

There is need to strengthen governance functions, especially at community level using the bottom-up approaches so that they create a line of reporting systems up to the governmental levels.

Zimbabwe’s infrastructural development requires strengthening, especially its poor road network systems in both rural and urban areas.

Communication lines, mobile-phone network activities, radio and television networks are critical in communicating climate change adaptation programmes.

Over the years, Zimbabwe has experienced major shocks and stressors which have compromised its resilient pathways. These stressors have long-term impacts on the country’s adaptive capacities. Drought has been recurring since 1995.

Zimbabwe relies heavily on rain-fed agriculture and this has compromised its resilient building strategies.

A shift from traditional cropping systems of maize and cotton to small grains like rapoko, sorghum and millet need to be adopted. These are drought tolerant.

Irrigation is not being maximised by tapping into abundant water bodies in the country. Drought has not only impacted on crop production, but also livestock production.

Climate smart agriculture (CSA) is recommended to make agriculture cost-effective, affordable and conserving the environment, improve soil fertility and moisture retention.

CSA helps to reduce greenhouse gas and carbon emissions which contribute to global warming.

Due to decreasing levels of Kariba Dam, the country needs to place much emphasis on investing in solar energy in order to conform to green energy requirements and improve electricity production. This can contribute to its resilience and climate-proof solutions.

Chronic poverty and malnutrition continue to have negative impacts on the country’s resilience. Due to the fact that a high percentage of rural households in Zimbabwe still rely on forest resources like firewood, fencing poles, fruits, logs for charcoal and building poles and forest clearing for agricultural land, has left forests thinner.

This has contributed to greenhouse gas emissions which disrupt Zimbabwe’s path to realising resilience. Overdependence on wood also increases the people’s vulnerability to climate change.

For these reasons, government should embark on poverty alleviation programmes like livestock restocking, agricultural input schemes and community micro-finances as well as giving communities cash handouts to complement drought relief programmes.

These efforts are meant to increase resilience and the fight against climate change.

There are also risk-financing mechanisms triggered by the lack of incorporating traditional forms of early warning systems with scientific forms of weather forecasting. Communities do not seem to be integrating them, thereby missing opportunities designed to fight climate change.

The country needs to train people in preparedness through promoting small grains and seed varieties that are adaptive to current climate variability.

It needs to increase the people’s knowledge of climate-induced disasters like floods, droughts and cyclones.

Promoting climate smart agriculture alleviates hunger, increases food security, promotes health well-being, and improves harvests and water conservation and environmental sustainability.

This also helps to increase the people’s knowledge of early warning systems, integrate traditional forms of early warning systems with scientific forms so that they can participate in seasonal forecasts and fight climate change.

The country also needs to participate in programmes that fight land degradation and deforestation like sustainable mining activities and also engage in reforestation programmes to boost forests.

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