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The urgency of climate change in Zim’s election campaigns

Opinion & Analysis
Takudzwanashe Mundenga

WITH just about a week remaining before Zimbabwe’s crucial election, the campaign landscape has become increasingly tense, marked by star rallies and impassioned pleas.

However, amid the fervour, witnessing the disconnect between political party leaders and the pressing realities the people face is disheartening.

Zimbabwe, an agricultural economy with most of its population reliant on rain-fed agriculture, cannot afford to overlook the impact of climate change.

The absence of any significant mention of climate adaptation and resilience in the election promises is a cause for concern.

Climate change and Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe has experienced the devastating effects of climate change, as evident from recent cyclones such as Freddy, Gombe, Idai, Chalane, Kenneth, and others. These disasters have wreaked havoc, causing loss of life, displacements, infrastructure damage, and immense suffering for the affected communities.

The impact of climate change on agriculture in Zimbabwe cannot be overstated. The country’s heavy reliance on rain-fed agriculture makes it particularly susceptible to the changing rainfall patterns and prolonged dry spells associated with climate change.

These factors have reduced crop yields, increased vulnerability to hunger and malnutrition, and are a significant setback to the overall economy. To address this challenge, political parties must prioritise climate-smart agricultural practices in their election campaigns.

This includes promoting drought-resistant crop varieties, efficient irrigation systems, and sustainable land management techniques. By incorporating climate adaptation strategies into their policies, political leaders can help safeguard the livelihoods of millions of Zimbabwean farmers and contribute to the country’s long-term food security.

Beyond the agricultural sector, climate change also poses risks to Zimbabwe’s water resources.

Changing rainfall patterns have resulted in decreased water flows in rivers and the drying up of water bodies, impacting both human consumption and irrigation.

This affects the availability of clean drinking water and hinders the capacity for sustainable agricultural production.

Political parties should prioritise investments in water management infrastructure, such as dams and reservoirs, to enhance water storage capacity during periods of scarcity.

Importance of climate change acknowledgement

Given the dependence on rain-fed agriculture and the increasing frequency and severity of climatic events, political parties must prioritise climate change in their election campaigns.

Neglecting this issue ignores the reality faced by most Zimbabweans and hinders the country’s long-term development and sustainability.

The ecological impact of climate change in Zimbabwe also demands attention. Changes in temperature and rainfall patterns disrupt habitats and threaten biodiversity, including endemic and already endangered species. This risks the country’s rich natural resources and impacts the tourism sector, vital to Zimbabwe’s economy.

Recognising the interdependence among ecosystems, biodiversity and climate, policymakers should include conservation and environmental protection measures in their election campaigns. Integrating sustainable land use practices, protected area management, and efforts to combat wildlife poaching will contribute to climate resilience and protect Zimbabwe’s unique ecosystems for future generations.

Food security and agriculture implications

The implications of climate change on food security and agriculture in Zimbabwe are far- reaching and demand urgent attention. According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation, agriculture in Zimbabwe provides employment and income for 60%-70% of the population, supplies 60% of the raw materials required by the industrial sector and contributes 40% of total export earnings.

With agriculture contributing approximately 17% of the gross domestic product, the impact of climate change on crop yields and livestock production directly affects the availability and affordability of food for millions of people.

Erratic rainfall patterns, prolonged droughts, and extreme weather events challenge farmers’ ability to cultivate crops and sustain their livestock.

This leads to reduced agricultural productivity and disrupts supply chains, increasing food prices and exacerbating food insecurity.

Furthermore, the consequences of climate change go beyond immediate crop failures.

The unpredictable weather patterns also deter long-term planning and investment in agriculture.

Farmers face greater risks in determining what crops to plant and when, as the traditional farming calendar can no longer be relied upon due to changing climatic conditions.

Moreover, the increased prevalence of pests and diseases associated with changing climate patterns further threatens agricultural productivity.

These cumulative effects of climate change on agriculture undermine food security and the country’s overall economic development.

Climate adaptation and resilience

Political parties must recognise the importance of both mitigation and adaptation measures.

Mitigation efforts focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and transitioning to cleaner and more sustainable energy sources.

This involves promoting renewable energy sources, energy efficiency measures, and sustainable land use practices.

However, adaptation strategies aim to enhance the country’s resilience to the impacts of climate change.

These include implementing climate-smart agricultural practices, expanding irrigation infrastructure, improving water management, diversifying livelihood options, investing in early warning systems, and strengthening disaster preparedness and response mechanisms.

To effectively combat climate change, Zimbabwe needs robust policies and strong political commitment.

Government should prioritise climate change in its national development plans and allocate sufficient resources to implement climate adaptation and mitigation measures.

Moreover, considering the country’s limited capacity and resources, enhanced international co-operation and financial support are crucial for Zimbabwe’s efforts to combat climate change.

Public awareness and education are vital in building resilience and promoting sustainable practices at both individual and community levels.

By educating citizens about the impacts of climate change and promoting sustainable lifestyles, Zimbabweans can collectively contribute to conserving natural resources, reducing emissions, and adapting to the changing climate.

Climate science and experts engagements

Political parties must engage with climate scientists, experts and organisations working in the field of climate change.

By basing their policies and promises on scientific evidence and expert advice, political leaders can demonstrate their commitment to addressing climate change effectively.

Collaboration with these stakeholders will enhance decision-making processes and ensure the implementation of measures backed by credible research.

By doing so, they demonstrate their commitment to people’s welfare, the agricultural sector’s long-term prosperity, and the overall resilience of Zimbabwe as a nation.

  • Takudzwanashe Mundenga is an NSERC-CREATE Climate Smart Soils fellow and MSc candidate in capacity development and extension at the University of Guelph, Canada. His expertise lies in climate change and soil science communications.

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