THE majority of farmers in Zimbabwe are small-scale based, poverty stricken and vulnerable to climate shocks, stresses and impacts. The small-scale farmers have no access to bank loans, crop insurance and other public interventions. This leaves them highly exposed, neglected and defenceless to climatic threats. The national input scheme, otherwise known as the Presidential Input Scheme, has its shortcomings and a few merits. As such, it is mirrored in political suspicions and controversy.
by Peter Makwanya
The national input scheme focuses mainly on farm inputs, leaving out critical agro-based sectors like livestock, forestry and fisheries. An integration of all of the above, if sustainably used, would enhance the country’s capacity to realise its adaptation and resilience, necessary in fighting against climate change. The best way to achieve the sustainability and self-sufficiency status is practising climate smart agriculture.
Climate-smart agriculture helps the country to climate proof its agricultural practices through sustainable eco-farming practices. Climate-smart agriculture assists in developing strategies that conserve the environment and restore the natural ecosystems. In the area of crops, climate smart agriculture helps crops to survive extreme weather conditions, namely heat, cold and erratic rainfall patterns. In this regard, Zimbabwe needs to embark on a progressional transition from the use of toxic and land damaging fertilisers and chemicals in line with the concept of climate-smart agriculture. Climate-smart agricultural practices do not damage the environment and they promote the use of organic fertilisers and manure
Climate-smart agriculture is a new way of enabling farmers to adapt to climate change and lift them out of poverty, while at the same time shielding them from the impacts of human activities on climate change. Climate-smart agriculture is pioneering frontiers on how sustainable agriculture is improving resilience to changing weather patterns, chemical resistant pests and diseases.
The prospects of climate-smart agriculture for small-scale farmers is that it takes into account three critical aspects such as the economic, social and environmental, with the dearest aim being of addressing food security, which we all lack as a country. The most fundamental issues of climate-smart agriculture is to empower the local communities’ adaptation capacities, thereby building the most needed resilience to climate shocks. Another complementary issue is that, climate-smart agriculture, if used sustainably, reduce the rate of greenhouse gas emissions.
Climate-smart agriculture brings with it the information that would assist people articulate environmentally-friendly farming techniques to bolster their resilience against volatile weather patterns. Notable techniques worth implementing are agro-forestry, intercropping, conservation agriculture, crop rotation, integrated livestock management and improved water conservation techniques. These are some of the implementing techniques worth noting among a host of many sustainable agricultural practices.
The farming methods and cropping techniques currently inherent in our Zimbabwean agricultural discourse are not strongly responsive to climate variabilities. In this regard, small-holder farmers need to move forward with climate smart techniques in order to improve their livelihoods.
The majority of the country’s smallholder farmers need to be cultured into how they can introduce and implement climate-smart agriculture in their different agro-ecological regions as well as integrating them into the national adaptation policy. The country’s vulnerable groups continue to be suffocated by farming techniques with ambiguous short and long-term adaptive capacities.
Consultations with the local communities would indeed enhance smart agricultural interventions that help to sustain crop and plant productivity to achieve food security.
Some plant, crop, livestock, forestry and fisheries interventions include the following: cropping techniques would focus on adaptive maize varieties that are drought tolerant, sorghum, millet and rapoko that can survive with little or minimum rainfall patterns. A revisit into the traditional types of vegetables like tsunga, nyevhe and other forms, which do not attract troublesome pests, is highly encouraged.
On the livestock and poultry side, people can practice rearing indigenous chickens, otherwise known as road-runners, as they can survive extreme weather conditions as well as common diseases. Goats are also encouraged as they are very much adaptive to cold or hot climatic conditions. To complement the rearing of goats and indigenous chickens is the quality of their manure, which can be used for gardening or on small plots of agricultural land. Quail birds can also enter the equation.
For sustainable forestry activities, communities can be cultured into engaging in agro-forestry, forest farming, for forest regeneration and trees that stabilise and enrich the soils. As far as water management techniques are concerned, sustainable water harvesting strategies by local communities will help the local populations to invest in small-scale fish ponds and water reservoirs suitable for fish farming ventures.
As a result, this would herald a shift in the way land, water and soil nutrients are managed. Small-scale agro-forestry uses the limited portions of land, but has the capacity to produce a large variety of foods all year round through market gardening and fruit farming. Agro-forestry ventures are environmentally friendly as they contribute significantly to carbon sinks, water catchment capacities and retention and above all and everything else, fighting against soil erosion as well as locking carbon underground.
Local communities should improve on the way they manage their pastures by avoiding overgrazing which causes land degradation. Rotational grazing and paddocking are as well encouraged as they help to keep the land rejuvenated.
For communities to successfully participate in the above, they need to engage into complementary interventions like using community radio stations, awareness, education and training of climate information and literacy disseminated through people friendly local languages as the best forms of imparting climate knowledge is through the utilisation of the local voice.
By harnessing the local voice, the most important factor is to be able to inculcate a sense of ownership from the local communities. By so doing, the climate-smart agricultural interventions would help to eradicate the current challenges stifling the sector at the moment.
A careful analysis of weather patterns and community forecasting is important in this regard as this would assist local communities in growing locally adaptive crops so as to achieve sustainable yields for national development and empowerment.
Peter Makwanya is a climate change communicator. He writes in his own capacity and can be contacted on: firstname.lastname@example.org