Farming has long since been in the nature of the Zimbabwean people. It is the backbone upon which our society has built and maintained great civilizations from the Munhumutapa era, to the current one we live in. In that time span, the way we farm has radically changed. Whether is changed for the better or not depends on the lens through which you look at it.
Definitely greater yields are attainable now than ever before in history. However, serious consideration must be taken with regards to the potentially harmful side effects of the chemicals and technologies that have enabled us to attain such abundance. The natural ability and desire for farming amongst Zimbabweans manifests itself in this era in the form of residential farming. Residential farming is partly a result of how the colonial era radically restructured the type and distribution of human settlement in Zimbabwe. This has left a large portion of Zimbabwean living in urban areas with very limited access to adequate farming land. This has however not deterred those living in these areas from fully utilizing every vacant area available for farming. This is generally a laudable action as it increases the overall food output and surplus of the nation. However a combination of urban settlement challenges and risky modern day farming techniques create a possible recipe for a health and environmental disaster in our
One of the main challenges of living in residential areas in present day Zimbabwe, is access to clean drinking water. Residents generally consider municipal water unfit for drinking. Residents have thus opted for using groundwater accessed through either boreholes or wells. Accessing water through these ground water sources creates a serious health risk when coupled with residential agriculture that makes use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Due to the lack of adequate space, boreholes and wells end up being in close proximity these pseudo farming areas. This creates an environment that fosters the potential nitrification of groundwater. Nitrification being the process by which chemical fertilizers which are generally high in nitrogen leach into the ground and deposit nitrates into the groundwater. Residents thus unknowingly consume this highly nitrated water. Diseases associated with water high in nitrates include methemoglobinemia (blue baby syndrome) in infants and nitrate poisoning in adults. If this situation continues it may result in residents slowly poisoning themselves over the long term and the health impacts being felt years later. It also creates an environmental risk as ground water sources that are polluted by nitrates can be unsafe to drink for hundreds
To avert a potential health and environmental disaster the following aspects must be addressed.
There is need for establishment of a regulatory framework that governs farming in residential areas. In establishing regulation, one of the fundamental questions to answer would be whether residential farming should be allowed. If it is to be allowed, strict regulations on agrochemical use in residential areas are necessary.
WATER QUALITY ANALYSIS
With the wide spread use of groundwater in most residential areas, there is urgent need to assess the quality and safety of this drinking water with regards to nitrification. Relevant government and non-governmental organization must be proactive in conduction such analysis to ensure the health of citizens.
It is also necessary to quickly raise public awareness about the health risks associated with using fertilizers in areas that utilize a lot of groundwater. This can be done through broad base platforms such as radio and television or simpler ones such as social media. Social media campaigns through platforms like Whatsapp and Facebook have proven to be a cheap and effective methods for sharing important information
In all that we do, we must act in the knowledge that we are simply but transitory custodians of this country and we have before us one simple task. To conduct ourselves in a manner that does not deprive future generations of their right to live in healthy and thriving environment.
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