Zimbabwe scales up drought mitigation and resilience building measures

Dr Jenfan Muswere

The El Nino phenomenon calls for extra ordinary interventions and measures as climate change impacts on rainfall patterns and yields while causing calamities or destruction.

The 2023/24 season for Zimbabwe and parts of the Southern African region has been hit by the El Nino induced drought which has seen the declaration of a state of national disaster by President Mnangagwa.

As climate change continue to take its toll and casualties, Zimbabwe through the Ministry of Lands, , Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development has come up with strategies and measures to mitigate the effects of El Nino and build resilience.

The nation was informed in a post cabinet brief yesterday.

“Cabinet considered the Report on the Zimbabwe El Nino-induced Drought: Strategies and Measures for Mitigation and Resilience Building which was presented by the Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development, Honourable Dr. A.J. Masuka”, said the Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Dr Jenfan Muswere.

The drought mitigation and resilience building measures which started in 2020 saw government deliberately climate proofing agricultural production. Agriculture is the backbone of the economy without which a nation can not meet its goals.

The government introduced the Pfumvudza/Intwasa at the small-holder level which is a sustainable intensive conservation model. The programme which was launched in the 2020/2021 summer season though largely successful has suffered a decline in output since it relies on rainfall which has of late been intemittent.

This prompted the government to pursue rehabilitation and development of irrigation schemes across the country in what is known as the Accelerated Irrigation Rehabilitation and Development Plan in 2021. The plan entails resuscitation of long abandoned irrigation schemes and opening up of new dams and schemes.

The Accelerated Irrigation Rehabilitation and Development Plan in 2021 seeks to avail 350 000 hectares for summer irrigation by 2025, in order to produce 1.8 million metric tonnes summer cereals annually, enough to feed the nation and generate a surplus.

On top of that the government in 2023 designated the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (ARDA) as the country’s food security agent. ARDA targets to annually produce 500 000 metric tonnes of summer cereals from its 100 000 hectares irrigable area and 300 000 metric tonnes of winter cereals from the 60 000 hectares irrigable area.

These measures will ensure Zimbabwe is food self-sufficient.

In order to keep to the promise that no one will starve following the devastating effects of the El Nino drought government has made an appeal to the international community and partners for aid.

The appeal comprises of US$2 billion to mitigate the effects of the drought on the populace and US$717 million for the country to build resilience as climate change continue to affect agricultural production.

The mitigation and resilience-building mechanism has been classified into five pillars which are Cereals, Horticulture, Livestock, Fisheries and Water and Irrigation.

The government will play its part in ensuring that the measures come to fruition through supplementing irrigation where possible, capacitation of institutions, workers and farmers.

The government is in the process of importing 300 000 metric tonnes of maize to mitigate the drought. The Grain Marketing Board has been mandated with delivering the grain to various parts of the country’s ten provinces.

The Government expects to distribute relief grain once every three months to mitigate the impact of the El Nino induced drought.

Winter wheat farming is expected to contribute 500 000 metric tonnes to the strategic grain reserve out of the required 780 000 metric tonnes.

To support horticulture, the government is distributing drilling rigs according to the number of villages by province. To date, 1 329 128 of the 3.5 million vegetable packs have been distributed, 1 294 000 sweet potato virus-free elite vines have been distributed to 72 520 farmers and 229 of the targeted 10 000 Village Business Units established.

 In order to mitigate livestock production the government through the Presidential Poultry and Goat schemes has commenced distribution of 18 million indigenous chickens and 1.8 million goats.

Commercial cage fishing support continue to soar. The government is promoting the enterprise as a business on 134 dams across the country. The expectation is to establish 20 000 fish ponds.

 Regarding Water Resources and Irrigation Development, government will tap into abundant water resources to ramp up irrigation development and increase yields. Private players have committed to availing farming implements to farmers in support of the government drought mitigation and resilience building strategies.

The commitment by the government of Zimbabwe to fight climate change head on is plausible.

Indeed, these measures will come to fruition and Zimbabwe will be self sufficient and there will be no need to import grain.

The President Dr E D Mnangagwa is clear on his Vision. He envisages an empowered upper middle-income society by the year 2030. As the populace embrace farming as a business the future is bright. Households’ livelihoods will improve and the nation attain this feat. Let us all put our hands on the deck.

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