“Fundamental initiatives for Zimbabwe”

The African continent will be the most affected by climate change, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In a region where 70 percent of inhabitants still directly rely on the land for their livelihoods, the amount of usable land is decreasing as the number of people who need it is increasing. With the need for food increasing fast, some farmers are exhausting their soils, thereby preventing their replenishment.

So far, many efforts to grow more food in Zimbabwe have focused on the increased use of mineral fertilizers, improved seed and strengthening targeted agricultural value chains. This is reasonable. While ongoing programs supporting agricultural development in the country are laudable, they have not yet sufficiently addressed several fundamental causes of reduced resilience to climate change and increasing food insecurity.

These include widespread degradation of cropland and loss of forest cover, affecting arable land which has been hit by soil erosion, nutrient depletion and deforestation. Hence, it makes no economic sense for farmers to apply expensive fertilizers on soil that is too degraded to allow the fertilizers to do their job. And farmers who aren’t sure of their rights to the land and its resources may be reluctant to invest in longer term actions needed to restore soil fertility.

In addition, it has to be noted that global challenges in the 21st Century have reached unprecedented levels of complexity and magnitude. Chief among them are food insecurity, climate change, and environmental degradation. Addressing these challenges will require urgent, innovative, and lasting solutions underpinned by the concerted efforts on the part of the global community. Zimbabwe need not to lag behind on these significant moves if ever we are to safeguard against the adverse impacts of this climate change saga.

Meanwhile globally, agriculture accounts for 24 percent of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, including 11 percent from deforestation and land use change. Annually a significant amount of farm land in the country and region become so degraded from unsustainable agricultural practices that they are abandoned, pushing some farmers to clear more forest for cultivation. It would be unwise and unnecessary to keep expanding the area of cropland by cutting down carbon-rich forests that support millions of people.

However, innovative farmers in some parts of the world have demonstrated what can be done at scale to sustainably increase food production without contributing to deforestation. These include, restoring agroforestry parklands, increasing the density of nitrogen-fixing trees on farms, investing in rainwater harvesting, adopting conservation agriculture and integrated soil fertility management to reclaim degraded land, restore cropland productivity and improve food security. These improved practices are at the core of climate smart agriculture.

Apart from that, current research in Zimbabwe has not adequately addressed the socio-economic dimensions of climate change and food security. The economics of adaptation and mitigation, as well as linkages between climate change, human health, water, food systems, and food security have been the
least studied.

That being the case, the development of a common conceptual and methodological framework for vulnerability and adaptation case studies would greatly assist in generating results that could be compared, up scaled, and used to inform adaptation plans and programs regarding the nation’s ability to prepare and implement mitigation and adaptation strategies in relation to
food security.

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