Zimbabwe seized with effects of climate change, land degradation in agriculture and mining

– regulations to reduce land degradation and deforestation are being tightened especially in mining areas, Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa said.

John Cassim

HARARE, ZIMBABWE – While speaking during the 43rd Independence celebrations in Mt Darwin, Mashonaland Central, on 18 April, President Emmerson Mnangagwa pointed out that his administration is continuing to de-risk and climate proof agriculture.

This is being done through the development and rehabilitation of irrigation infrastructure as well as dam construction, the leader of the Southern African nation, said.

In mining, Mnangagwa said the sector is yearning to achieve the set US$12 billion target for 2023, through value addition, beneficiation and employment creation. 

This will be done by tightening regulations to reduce land degradation and deforestation.

Climate risk in agriculture represents the probability of a defined hydro-meteorological hazard like floods, cyclones, droughts, heat waves and cold spells, affecting the livelihood of farmers. 

Such risks can be estimated from previous incidents to inform farmers on the best choice to manage them. 

WHAT are the de-risk and climate proof projects in the agricultural sector:

·      Dams being constructed in all provinces

·      Drilling of a borehole per village

·      Hydro power units to be installed at new dams 

·      Fisheries projects expanded

·      Nutrition gardens and orchards being established

According to the Minister of Agriculture, Lands, Water, Fisheries and Rural Development, Dr Anxious Masuka, threats affecting the agricultural sector are enormous and the government had to proactively put in place, deliberate measures.

“In the agriculture and food systems transformation, climate change was the threat against achieving the targets that we had set.

So, for climate proof, you adopt the intensive conservation method called ‘Pfumvudza’ and that’s the de-risking and mitigation aspect, at the smallholder level,” Dr Masuka said.

Pfumvudza literally refers to minimal planting of crops in small holes that trap rainwater and adopting crop rotation for permanent soil cover.

“Similarly at small holder level but at irrigation, you look at improvements in water efficiency, for the irrigation schemes, as many of our irrigation still do flood irrigation, which is a waste,” the Minister added.

According to Dr Masuka, the government is not just constructing dams anymore and has reviewed all the 12 dams constructed to provide irrigation, drinking water for the communities, fisheries development and hydro electricity generation.

At least a dam is being constructed in each province making them 12 at the moment.

In 2020, Zimbabwe had 120 000 hectares under irrigation but now has nearly 200 000 hectares while the target is 350 000 hectares under irrigation, by 2025.

To achieve this the Irrigation Development Alliance (IDA) of government and the private sector was formed, through which 100 000 hectares for irrigation, has been pledged.

“In the rural development projects dubbed the Presidential Rural Development Program, we envisage to drill 35 000 boreholes in 35 000 villages.

So far 800 villages have been covered, 9600 boreholes at 9600 schools and another 3000 boreholes, two in every ward for youths, and this is the de-risking we are doing,” Minister Masuka said.

Zimbabwean Lands and Agriculture Minister explaining the government’s de-risking and climate change proof programmes.

WHAT are the land degradation neutrality targets (LDN)?

– The global mechanism and the secretariat of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) established the Land Degradation Neutrality Targets Setting Programme (LDN TSP) to assist countries to achieve LDN by 2030.

Zimbabwe is a signatory to the UNCCD and is in the process of domesticating some of the neutrality targets as hinted by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Through the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) and the Forestry Commission, Zimbabwe has come up with at least twelve targets which are:

·       Reforestation with local and exotic species on 6 455 250 hectares of forest converted to shrubs and on 215 050 hectare of forest converted to cropland

·       Avoid further decline of forest through economic incentives (rehabilitation) of 2 820 hectare of land showing early signs of decline, and having a declining productivity.

·       Improve sustainable land management practices to avoid soil and gully erosion, encourage and enforce appropriate stocking rates on 175 250 hectares of shrubs, grasslands sparsely vegetated areas showing signs of decline.

·       Embark on land/catchment reclamation/restoration of 5 580 hectares of grazing and cropland affected by gully erosion .

·       Use conservation farming and agro-forestry practices to improve cropland productivity on 361 250 hectares of cropland showing tables but stressed productivity and easy signs of decline.

·       Enforce laws and regulations, embark on awareness programmes targeting illegal miners (rehabilitation) of 3 798. 60 hectares affected by illegal mining.

·       Reduce the 8 857. 92 hectares of land affected by alien species through chemical and mechanical control.

·       Maintain and improve land productivity on 137 545 hectares of forests that are currently stable but stressed.

·       Provide alternatives such as rural electrification, renewable energy sources, expand energy for tobacco programmes, provide sustainable fencing materials for fencing arable lands and community gardens and for brick burning, enforce regulations on tree cutting for fuel wood sale and reduce deforestation to protect 297 000 hectares of forest land.

·       Enforce construction of conservation works, encourage conservation agriculture and build capacity for farmers to improve 1 083 825 hectares of degraded arable lands.

·       Improve sustainable land management systems in order to maintain the current soil organic carbon level beyond 2045, forest at 42. 3 tons per hectare, shrubs, grasslands and sparsely vegetated areas at 38. 6 tons per hectare cropland at 38. 9 tons per hectare and wetlands at 52. 2 tons per hectare.

·       Improved wetlands management and restoration of 270 080 hectares of the country’s severely degraded wetlands.

A number of statutory instruments have been put in place to strengthen enforcement of some of the LDN targets by the Forestry Commission as well as the Environmental Management Agency.    

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