Zimbabwe Faces Increased Desertification and Droughts

John Cassim

Harare, Zimbabwe – Zimbabwe joined the international community on June 17th in commemorating Desertification and Drought Day. The nation’s Agricultural Minister, Dr. Anxious Masuka, issued a stark warning: Up to 17% of Zimbabwe’s land could become barren by 2050 due to persistent droughts.

Minister Masuka emphasized the urgency of implementing drought mitigation measures. In the district of Umzingwane, Matabeleland South, as much as 34% of the land faces desertification by 2050 if preventative actions aren’t taken.

Land Degradation A Global Threat

The theme for this year’s Desertification and Drought Day was “United for Land. Our Legacy. Our Future.” Established in 1994, the Day aims to raise awareness about international efforts to combat desertification and drought. 

Previously known as the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, it highlights the global challenge of land degradation. 

An estimated 40% of the world’s land is already degraded, impacting millions of people. In Zimbabwe, approximately 35.6% of the land suffers from degradation.

Land restoration is critical to reversing this trend and building resilience to climate change, drought, and desertification. Dr. Masuka addressed the media, stressing the need to tackle all causes of desertification.

Addressing Deforestation A Multi-Faceted Approach

While deforestation is a major contributor, Dr. Masuka acknowledged the complexities of the issue. 

“Conversion of land for agriculture is the biggest culprit, not tobacco curing,” he explained. “The tobacco industry itself is taking steps to reduce its environmental footprint.”

He continued, “We recognize tobacco’s role in deforestation, and we’re working to limit its impact. However, combating desertification requires a broader effort. All Zimbabweans, not just those in the tobacco industry, must take action to reduce deforestation, soil erosion, and plant trees. The regeneration of indigenous trees is crucial for long-term success.”

The Tobacco Industry and Sustainability Efforts

Zimbabwe’s tobacco transformation plan aims to reduce environmental degradation. The plan encourages farmers to adopt more efficient, less fuel-dependent tobacco curing units. Exploring alternative fuels and transitioning away from firewood are key aspects of the initiative.

Presently, 93% of Zimbabwe’s tobacco is grown under contract. These contracts typically provide farmers with coal and technical guidance to promote efficient curing systems. 

Additionally, tobacco buyers have formed a sustainable afforestation group that plants eucalyptus trees to offset deforestation. They’ve also partnered with existing forest restoration programs in the eastern highlands to provide firewood sources for farmers who haven’t yet transitioned to alternative curing methods.

“The tobacco industry is making significant strides,” said Dr. Masuka. “Tobacco is an important crop for our nation. We have a goal of producing 300 million kilograms annually and growing the industry from $1.5 billion to $5 billion. We also want to capture more of the value from our tobacco exports, which are currently worth an estimated $60 billion when processed into cigarettes. However, achieving these goals must be balanced with allowing our native forests to regenerate. This is essential for reclaiming Zimbabwe’s land.”

Desertification and Drought A Global Challenge

Desertification and Drought Day serves as a reminder that these issues can be addressed through collective action. The Day emphasizes strengthened community participation, international cooperation, and the importance of implementing the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, particularly in drought-prone regions like Africa.

This year’s Desertification and Drought Day follows closely behind World Environment Day, held on June 5th. The theme of World Environment Day, “Beat Plastic Pollution,” highlighted another pressing environmental concern. Both observances underscore the critical need to protect our planet’s land and resources.

Desertification is the process of land degradation in dry regions caused by climate variations and unsustainable human activities. It leads to a decline in plant and animal life. Droughts are extended periods of abnormally low rainfall, disrupting water availability for ecosystems and human needs. Droughts can be categorized as meteorological, agricultural, hydrological, or socio-economic.

The Environmental Management Agency (EMA) of Zimbabwe issued a statement explaining the impact of climate change and unsustainable land use practices on desertification and droughts. “Rising temperatures, shifting precipitation patterns, and extreme weather events all contribute to desertification and droughts,” the EMA noted. “These factors place immense strain on land, water, and natural resources. Overgrazing, deforestation, and poor irrigation methods can further exacerbate desertification, especially in vulnerable dryland areas.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top