guest column:Peter Makwanya
IN the framework of climate action and recovery strategies, more often stakeholders have become accustomed to the phrase community resilience.
While this is correct in every respect, it is clear that households make up a community.
For this reason, the micro-significance of the household element continues to be overshadowed, thereby, creating information, procedural and knowledge gaps.
An analysis of a household, as the first pot of call and step towards the building of a broad network of communities, should be holistic.
A household is viewed, in terms of its location, occupants or headship including its assets as well as its potential to adapt, absorb climate shocks or its failure to perform both functions.
Topical and critical things in a household are its infrastructure and assets. The assets normally include livestock, crops, income, education, knowledge, information and technology.
When interrogating issues of household resilience, the mostly articulated phrase is rural household resilience as if there are no urban resilience issues to talk about.
Normally experts in the development sector continue making reference to the rural household because that is where poverty is assumed to be rampant, but there is also stinking poverty in the urban areas. Inasmuch as rural households are failing to cope with climate shocks, a number of urban households are in the same predicament.
For a household to increase its resilience and withstand climate shocks, a stock take should be undertaken both inside and outside, including the supportive environment, whether they are conducive or not. Implementing partners like NGOs, government agencies and stakeholders should be in the mix as well. While it is generally assumed that female or youth-headed households lack resilience capacities and potential, some male-headed households are given the placement they do not deserve as they also lack household essentials.
A typical household with all essentials should be in a position to grow crops that have the potential to generate income. These are what can be referred to as cash crops like maize, sunflowers, cereals, groundnuts, sorghum and cotton, among others. A typical household should also be able to diversify the growing of crops and extend to market or nutritional gardens.
Adopting improved seed varieties is also essential for sustainable livelihoods diversification.
With good agricultural productivity, households can generate income, improve food security and achieve resilience by managing hunger and even survive droughts.
For every household, keeping livestock is the cornerstone of human survival and security, especially cattle although small-livestock like goats, sheep, rabbits, poultry and pigs, among others are equally important. Livestock can generate income in big and empowering ways. This enables households to respond to climate shocks.
Energy is a critical component. The type of energy used determines the household’s coping capacity. Some households use electricity, while others use solar energy, coal, biogas or wood. The type of energy used determines the century in which the household owner lives in.
Renewable energy sources enable households to respond timeously to a number of climate stressors while other energy sources enhance the warming potential of the atmosphere. The ability to deal with energy costs also determines the household resilience potential.
Many households are still depending on the natural ecosystems to support their lifestyles, stripping forests of their resources.
Depending on the geographical setting or location, some ecosystems are fragile while others are adaptive.
A household’s over-dependance on the natural ecosystems leads to ecological destruction and land degradation.
Households should be cushioned and resilient enough to respond to droughts, floods or cyclones in adaptive and absorptive ways. These natural phenomena prevent poor households from accumulating assets or withstand climate shocks.
The type of the household and building materials used also have a role to play, especially in the event of floods, cyclones, heat or cold.
Sufficiently cushioned and resilient households are able to respond to spiralling energy costs, food, assets and livelihood projects, thereby, not ending up selling their assets in order to make ends meet.
The ability of each household to raise its own income is what resilience is all about. Resilient households are able to respond to early warning systems and manage risks associated with them, in order to be secure, build and diversify livelihoods in the face of the changing climate.
NGOs provide micro-financing schemes aimed at cushioning vulnerable households from hunger, unfriendly macro-economic environments so that households are able to buy food and avert starvation.
When the government provides agricultural inputs, such as the Pfumvudza project, it cushions vulnerable households against the changing climate.
Urban households where incomes have been eroded by inflation coupled by an unsupportive macro-economic environment, many households cannot afford to save.
Education is also a form of future household resilience mechanism, where families normally sell livestock or make savings for their children to have quality education, leading to skills acquisition for a productive career. If households are not resilient, children are denied the right to education.
Another aspect of a resilient household is that it should have knowledge and information to improve its agricultural production through agricultural extension officers and the Meteorological Services Department.