By Sibonokuhle Ndlovu
BOTH natural and human factors change earth’s climate. Before humans, changes in climate resulted entirely from natural causes such as changes in earth’s orbit, solar activity, or volcanic eruptions.
Since the industrial era began, humans have had an increasing effect on climate, particularly by adding billions of tons of heat-trapping greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Most of the observed warming since the mid-20th century is due to human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.
For many decades, climate was seen as constant and even the science shows that it was because first rains fell between October 15 and 18 every year in Zimbabwe, with local farmers arranging their planting calendars in line with the seasons.
But over the past 30 years, the situation has changed as onset of the rains appears to have shifted as seasons have drastically changed, with rainfall falling much later in the year in November or December, or sometimes in January the following year.
In fact rainfall patterns have become so unpredictable that many farmers are left off guard, encountering so many losses.
According to the UNITED Nations World Food Programme (WFP), over 1.5 million people who make up to about 10 percent of the total population in Zimbabwe are facing hunger and the drought is linked to El-Nino weather patterns that Zimbabwe Meteorological Services Department has also reported, which has affected countries in the Southern African region.
WFP warned that the drought is likely to damage harvests across Southern Africa and put 14 million people are at risk.
In Zimbabwe, crops are already wilting while cattle have died due to the effects of climate change and southern parts of the country are highly affected. Speaking during a recent indaba on climate change, principal researcher-Climate Change Management Department in the Ministry of Environment Water and Climate, Elisha Moyo, noted that Zimbabwe could fall into the United Nations’ “absolute water scarcity category” by 2080.
Moyo explained that the country now spends so much on climate related disasters like food procurement due to climate induced crop failure.
“Recently, hotter and less cold days are being experienced. Rainfall has become more erratic, spatial and temporary. With the number of rain days reduced, mid-season dry spells increased, Zimbabwe’s long term rainfall is generally on a decreasing trend,” Moyo said.
He also noted that climate change had robbed vulnerable people’s peace, as malaria and other water borne diseases spread following the flooding.
He said symptoms of changing climate such as greater frequency and severity of extreme weather conditions, changes to average temperature and precipitation, and sea level rise had implications for a country’s environmental socio-economic situation.
He added that the diagnosis of planet earth seems rather clear in that constantly growing human and industrial activities have caused dramatically increased emissions of greenhouse gasses, which in turn cause the global climate to change rapidly and probably irreversibly.
The symptoms of climate change are likely to cause more and more natural disasters, extreme weather events and climate induced migration movements.
Moyo noted that changes in land use in Zimbabwe especially through agriculture; and economic and technological transformation was one of the major factors that had brought about environmental and climate change.
However, there is need to have this information out to ordinary people through a communication strategy over both social and traditional media and there is need to simplify vocabulary, so that such discussions are not limited to academic circles when discussing climate change.
The 16 officially recognized languages must be employed in translating climate change to demystify the challenge.
Although Zimbabwe’s contribution to greenhouse emissions was very insignificant when compared to industrialized countries that are supposed to reduce their share of these emissions under the Kyoto Protocol, the country has suffered the brunt of climate change.
The Kyoto Protocol, which was adopted in Kyoto, Japan, on December 11, 1997, and entered into force on February 16, 2005, is an international agreement linked to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which commits its parties by setting internationally binding emission reduction targets.
Zimbabwe needs to major on the “minor” issues like drought resistance in general. Furthermore , we should involve gender balance, by also engaging the women.
Climate change and its effects information is availed to government but these issues are not being communicated properly to the citizens as they are classified as confidential information. There is greater need for a sound monitoring network in understanding the extent and reach of climate change.
At this defining point in history, all efforts should be made to come up with a strategic framework that will monitor and evaluate data on the changing natural climate and change.
Climate change is posing a serious threat to food security in Zimbabwe with the country now experiencing regular droughts owing to increased temperatures and reduced rainfall over the year. But the cash-strapped government says it is doing something about trying to mitigate the effects of climate change.
According to the Environment, Water and Climate ministry, the country’s annual mean surface temperature has warmed by about 0.4 degrees Celsius from 1900 to 2000.
The country is now experiencing more hot and fewer cold days as a result of climate change and variability while the timing and amount of rain received are becoming uncertain.
Droughts are more regular, food shortages are a perennial feature and resulting in a high prevalence of undernourishment estimated at 30 to 54 percent between 2006 and 2012. The trend is worrying, not only for the government but for the ordinary people as well.
Recently the government set-up a climate change management department in the environment ministry to deal with climate change management issues in the country. Meteorological Department releases information on weather and climate to the public though critical issues are not under their mandate as other departments are responsible in handling the confidential information.
The Government is already implementing a National Climate Change Response Strategy.The strategy will guide the integration of climate change issues into national development and addressing its impact on communities.Some Zimbabweans are aware of climate change and its effects but there is need for more public awareness among communities.
There is new knowledge that is coming, there is need maybe for more awareness, there is need for more efforts in educating the community and but also learning from what they are doing. Most of them have knowledge systems they have been adapting.
Moyo added that his department is already implementing adaptation strategies such as raising funds for irrigation supported agriculture.
“There have been issues of adaptation, how we can access means of implementation for adaptation that is the finance, the technologies. So these are the issues largely that we have been advocating that is to say how we can make sure that we access some of the credit lines, some of the loans, some of the grants that are issued by different finances mechanisms, ” he said.
However individuals and companies have been urged to complement government efforts to reduce the emission of greenhouse gasses, which are largely responsible for climate change.
According to Zimbabwe’s Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) that were presented recently to United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change by the Environment, Water and Climate Change Minister, Oppah Muchinguri, the country is seeking to contribute to an ambitious goal of limiting temperature rise to below 1.5 degrees Celsius.
INDCs are climate change mitigation actions, strategies or policies that result in the reductions of emission of greenhouses gases and the consequent slowing down of global warming.
However, the citizens are not yet aware of the climate change mitigation measures and continue to question the climate anomalies. Climate change, disaster reduction and preparedness for emergencies
During a Zimbabwe Going Forward: Opportunities and Constraints” Conference organized by Mass Public Opinion Institute (MPOI) and Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) on Climate change: aligning policy and residual knowledge with practice in Zimbabwe Sub-theme “Disaster Reduction and Emergencies – Preparing for climate change eventualities, Dr. Strike Mkandla, noted that cyclical changes in weather patterns have brought floods and droughts in some areas of Zimbabwe.
He said these events may be getting exacerbated by climate change which is expected to intensify extreme weather events and rainfall variability.
“This sets a formidable agenda for disaster management and for disaster risk reduction. Going by reports in the aftermath of the floods that hit Tokwe-Mukosi and Tsholotsho areas in 2013-2014, the response from the country’s services was not equal to the task. Some have suggested that explanation for the slow and inadequate response to the flood disasters lies in the area of policy. As one observation has it, “the biggest undoing has been lack of clear-cut national policy and strategy to deal with such catastrophes,” said Dr Mkandla.
He said beyond the local and national arena, disaster reduction management (DRM) in the region does receive some level of regional cooperation in the framework of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC).
“This entails disaster preparedness, response, rehabilitation and recovery. Even here, the regional body’s Disaster Risk Reduction Unit charged with trans-boundary hazards and disasters faces challenges that sound familiar when one looks at those faced by countries, namely: under-funding and lack of coordination, lack of comprehensive, updated risk assessment and analysis, weak information and knowledge management systems and reducing underlying risk factors, “he said.
Dr Mkandla added that it should be noted that the problems cited above do not include the absence of a mechanism, because in 2011 the region set up the SADC Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction and also has a Climate Services Center.
At the continental level countries from the region actively participated in the first African Union Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) in 2005 that has become a regular feature. At the global level various UN organizations that deal with aspects of disasters in their mandates have come up with a UN Plan of Action on DRR for resilience, but there is backstopping for both crafting early warning and for emergency response from the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), to name two. Thus there is a chain of institutions, action plans and frameworks that can be tapped to overcome some of the problems.
The million dollar question is, why is Zimbabwe always caught napping when it is faced with effects of climate change when they have information on challenges that the nation is likely to be faced with as the problem intensifies?