BY FREEMAN MAKOPA
ZIMBABWE’s food security situation is under threat from climate change after the country experienced successive droughts owing to increased temperatures and low rainfall. The country had to fork out US$600 million annually for grain imports to supplement its staple grain needs.
Lands and Agriculture deputy minister Douglas Karoro told NewsDay that climate change had resulted in people in both urban and rural areas being exposed to hunger.
“Climate change has reduced agricultural productivity and grain production, mainly due to the effects of droughts, floods, and disease outbreaks that have affected plants and animals, resulting in food insecurity. These have consistently been growing in Zimbabwe,” Karoro said.
“As a result, Zimbabwe incurred a huge annual grain import bill of around US$600 million, which was used to import wheat and maize to augment local production. During the period 2015 to 2020, the proportion of the food-insecure rural population was around 30% to 59%,” he said.
Karoro said climate change also had a negative impact on the urban population which has also become vulnerable.
“Vulnerability of urban populations is also on the rise, reaching 30% or 2,2 million people by 2020, while the proportion of chronically food insecure people in rural and urban communities increased from about 500 000 in 2015 to about 1,7 million people in 2020.”
Karoro said Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector’s contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) has been on the decline due to under-performance of the sector.
“At its peak, it contributed 19% to GDP. The decline has been caused by reduced levels of exports,” he said.
Zimbabwe, like several other Southern African countries, has been experiencing severe droughts due to climatic change.
In March 2019, parts of Zimbabwe experienced flooding following Cyclone Idai, which also devastated some parts of Malawi and Mozambique. Flooding and drought dramatically reduced food supplies.
Women and children are reportedly the most affected by the food crisis in Zimbabwe.
About 90% of children aged six months to two years in are said to be failing to get enough to eat.
The Livelihoods and Food Security Programme (LFSP) in Zimbabwe has revealed that the real and potential risks posed by climate change and increased seasonal climatic variability in Zimbabwe requires farmers to be informed, flexible, and have good access to inputs (and markets) and employ a variety of production systems and farming practices.
The report also stated that the sector requires production systems to be more buffered against exceptional weather conditions, it also stressed the need for crop diversification and access to drought resistant crops and crop varieties, as well as training in water harvesting techniques and soil moisture conservation methods, and a revival of run-down irrigation schemes and other community assets.
“Zimbabwe as a whole is suitable for various forms of crop and/or livestock production, and to remain resilient in the face of climate change, the trend should be moving towards production which is diverse, intensive and flexible, with a rapid response potential in the event of temporary and spatial variations in both weather patterns and markets,” Karoro said.