THE Meteorological Services Department (MSD) has partnered some non-governmental organisations on an 18-month project aimed at establishing and strengthening early warning systems (EWS) to improve disaster preparedness and resilience among rural communities in Matabeleland South province.
BY KUDAKWASHE MATIZANADZO
The MSD has partnered Oxfam, Save the Children and International Risk Committee to roll out the programme in Matobo and Beitbridge districts.
Under the project, funded by the European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO) and running under the banner #Ready To Act, Oxfam has installed rain gauges at six schools in six wards in Matobo as part of EWS. An automated weather station was installed by MSD engineers at Beula Primary School, 200km south of Bulawayo on Thursday last week.
Speaking at the installation ceremony, Matabeleland South chief meteorological services officer Rogers Munyira said the weather station will assist government efforts of adapting and containing weather shocks such as drought, heat waves and floods linked to climate change.
“Climate change has led to changes in weather patterns. Government wants to adapt to these changes and be ready to absorb the impact of weather shocks and be able to build resilience and live beyond. The first thing is food security and to ensure food security, one needs to know the behaviour of the weather. The weather station, therefore, comes in handy as it will guide us on the weather and rainfall variables of the area which then makes it easy for us to advise farmers on the crops to plant and proper farming practices,” Munyira said.
“Eighty percent of hazards are weather related. Oxfam has gone into schools and communities setting up disaster risk reduction (DRR) committees, teaching them how to identify hazards that may happen in their area as well as resilience building and hazards managing.”
Munyira added that the station will make it easy for them to identify the risk of disaster and be ready to absorb its impact.
Agritex officer Simon Kwangwari said Oxfam had brought life-changing technology to far-flung areas.
“We hardly receive any information concerning the weather here because there is no radio or television reception in our ward. The station will greatly assist us in predicting weather patterns and knowing the amount of rainfall we would have received. This helps us decide which crops to plant as well as warning us of any impending hazards,” he said, adding that the area is prone to very high temperatures and strong winds which in the past have destroyed houses and a community clinic.
Matobo district falls under natural region five and normally receives less than 400mm of rainfall each season and farmers are advised to mainly plant small grains such as rapoko, sorghum and millet as well as to practice conservation farming.
Oxfam representative, William Chagumaira said climate change was real and there was need for communities to be equipped and educated on disaster risk issues. He said risk profiles and risk maps with identified safety points have been developed for Matobo’s wards 2, 5, 6, 16, 17 and 18, based on the main hazards that affect the wards and knowledge levels have been increased for the wards’ six committees. The committees have come up with contingency plans that outline and rank hazards and community response mechanisms.
Chagumaira added that emergency search and rescue kits comprising first aid boxes, stretcher beds, ropes, high-powered torches as well as picks and shovels have been procured for the targeted wards.
Zimbabwe has been hit by weather shocks such as drought, high temperatures and floods in the past few years, with the most recent being flash floods that struck Hwange and other areas this month, leaving many families stranded.
Matabeleland region is susceptible to drought and is one of the regions that needs urgent assistance to mitigate disaster.