Climate Induced drought is firmly upon us, possible lessons for future preparedness in Zimbabwe

By Peter Makwanya

What started as speculation based on the El-Nino phenomenon has gradually been building up and dampening the fervent hopes and high expectations of the people.

The evidence is there for all to see, stressed and wilting crops, turning khaki by the day, extreme and suffocating heat, moisture stress and lack of precipitation.

The current situation has ended weeks if not months of anticipation, that this week, in two weeks or so, it would, indeed, rain. The hopes are fading by the day, what remains is how we deal with the drought at household, national and international levels.

Drought is generally viewed as a climate extreme characterised by persistent, unusual dry weather conditions, usually associated with lack of precipitation, deficit in soil moisture and water reservoir storage, leading to widespread impacts. In short, what is being experienced right now is a combination of meteorological, hydrological and agricultural drought conditions.

Introspection on the state of preparedness as individuals or as a country is key as the situation is going to get dire and deteriorate to unimaginable proportions.

This we can neither run away from nor wish away rather we should face reality and put political posturing and grandstanding aside. Some communities are going to require food aid, livestock casualties are going to increase, water sources shall dry up, large numbers of wild animals will die, those that survive will head towards human settlements looking for water, leading to human-wildlife conflicts. Pastures are disappearing, grass is drying up faster, livestock and wild animals are under threat. Water scarcity can also fuel small-scale water conflicts among humans.

Lots of sustainable behaviors need to be practised starting with sustainable water conservation and management, investing in robust early warning systems education, communication and awareness is paramount. These pillars and practices have been taken for granted but are good for the country’s state of preparedness. Practices like rainwater harvesting and recycling are paid lip service to but these may lead to improved food security and health outcomes. Simple water conservation technologies like investing in drip irrigation is also instrumental and a milestone too. All these should be packaged into sustainable behaviors, practices and learning experiences for sustainable living and resilience building.

While horticulture is a key livelihood option, it depends on the availability of underground, stream or river water but it remains the cornerstone of preparedness, including rearing small livestock and engaging in micro-lending schemes.

During the rainy season, instead of harvesting rainwater, many times people are heard complaining about receiving too much rainfall. Backyard water harvesting or constructing small-scale reservoirs at community level for future use become sustainable water cultures and accounting tools. Even adverts on water conservation that used to be regular on television, radio and in print media have since disappeared, people need to be reminded and checked upon. Running around and panicking when confronted with drought will provide less options for resilience building. Managing water resources sustainably is good for the environment, society and economy.

In all these scenarios, preparedness is key and countries need to invest in early warning systems, communication and awareness to save lives.

Drought education and empowerment should be ongoing whether there is drought or not. Communities should be at the centre of climate mitigation and adaptation awareness.

They should not be left in the dark or have little or no information at all hence they need adequate warning and should be empowered with the ability to respond to extreme weather events such as droughts. In this regard, early warning systems should be delivered in advance for people to stay in the know.

Investing in early warning systems is a sure way of improving the country’s resilience towards droughts and realising food security. In this regard, water bodies around the country need to be safeguarded against siltation for continuous water supplies for large-scale irrigation schemes that would tame droughts.


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