Climate change in Zimbabwe and women farmers

 

Photo credit: IRIN

How women farmers are battling climate change in Zimbabwe

by Tonderayi Mukeredzi, IRIN contributor in Zimbabwe

Chengetai Zonke lost much of her maize crop to drought last year. When it came to planting again, she decided to reduce her stake in what has become a recurrent climate change gamble.

At her homestead in Chiware, in Zimbabwe’s northeastern Manicaland Province, the 52-year-old farmer explained why. “I’ve abandoned tilling the bigger fields to avoid the risk of putting more land under crops that may fail due to lack of rain or too much rain,” she told IRIN. “Replanting costs money, which is scarce.”

Allowing for the unpredictability of climate change turned out to be a shrewd move. After years of drought, Cyclone Dineo struck mid-February. Almost the entire country is now affected by floods, which have washed away bridges and roads and marooned some communities in the south entirely.

Almost 250 people have been killed in what President Robert Mugabe has declared a “national disaster”. Nearly 2,000 more have been left homeless, while many others remain vulnerable to dams bursting or overflowing upstream.

Several weeks of heavy rain have also taken their toll on agriculture – already struggling due to a critical shortage of fertiliser and a persistent outrbeak of fall armyworm.

“Some farmers face hunger because they planted late. Their crops are waterlogged, and have been leached,” said Zonke, whose own maize was affected.

Before the cyclone struck, the Zimbabwe Food Security Cluster (UN agencies, NGOs, government and donor representatives) was estimating that 43 percent of the rural population, some 4.1 million people, would be food insecure at the peak of the lean season, between January and March.

Women’s work

Zonke has four children, who have all finished school, and lives with four grandchildren. As is the norm in Zimbabwe, although she has a husband, it is she who does most of the work on the family farm.

Read the full story: IRIN

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Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.