Climate change has become one of the most profound threats to smallholder agriculture in semi-arid and arid areas in Zimbabwe due to farmers over reliance on rain-fed cropping and limited access to capital and technology among other challenges.
By Edward Makuzva
While several potential adaptation options exist, many barriers hinder effective adoption of these practices; hence production in marginal areas remains very low.
Due to drought which affected maize production in the country, A2 farmers in Leleza area, Mashonaland East Province, have now turned to small grains which are conducive in hot areas as a strategic response to climate change induced food insecurity.
In an interview with 263Chat, Melody Minya a small holder farmer in Leleza said she has turned to small grains due to noticeable changes in rainfall and temperature patterns in the past years and small grain production being the best strategy due to drought and high temperature tolerance.
“It is therefore necessary to encourage adoption of small grains by developing improved varieties, adoption of climate smart agricultural practices, improved technical support, and access to markets among other interventions.
“Small grains are less likely to fail in drought-prone areas and this make them a priority cereal to feed the world especially in communities facing water shortages. However, consumption of small grains has been limited due to several barriers which calls for solutions to increase their consumption and income generation capacity,” Minya explained.
She highlighted that the ability of small grains to tolerate harsh and extreme climatic conditions place them as crops of choice in the drought-prone districts of Zimbabwe.
Small grains such as sorghum, pearl and finger millet are ranked second staple cereal crops after maize in Zimbabwe and play a vital role in the country’s food security and nutrition. Although small grains production has been promoted in the dry parts of the country for many years, the rates of uptake have remained low.
Minya however bemoaned the fact that small grains are labor intensive and attracted quelea birds, something he said should be addressed by modifying and creating resistant varieties.
Leleza village head, Langton Garan’anga said Zimbabwe and other countries in sub-Saharan Africa are negatively affected by climate-related disasters such as droughts and famine.
Garan’anga added that the effects of hazards on livelihoods and the national economy are severe since the country’s economy is agro-based. It therefore becomes a challenge to devise ways of mitigating against these negative effects of climate change to improve livelihoods across the country.
“Zimbabwe and other countries in sub-Saharan Africa are negatively affected by climate-related disasters such as droughts and famine.
“The effects of hazards on livelihoods and the national economy are severe since the country’s economy is agro-based. It therefore becomes a challenge to devise ways of mitigating against these negative effects of climate change to improve livelihoods across the country”, Garan’anga added.
He said farmers were already adapting to our changing climate by changing their selection of crops and the timing of their field activities.
Meanwhile, some farmers are applying increasing amounts of pesticides to control increased pest pressure.
Many of the practices typically associated with sustainable agriculture can also help increase the resilience of the agricultural system to impact of climate change, such as diversifying crop rotations, integrating livestock with crop production systems, improving soil quality, minimizing off-farm flows of nutrients and pesticides and implementing more efficient irrigation practices.