In Zimbabwe, three years of poor rainfall have had a devastating effect on crop yields. Many are attributing the shortage of good rains to the process of global warming, raising fears about the long-term future of agriculture in the country, and indeed the region. In response, the government is trying to raise awareness of the relationship that exists between people and their environment. Dumisani Nyoni, a senior agricultural extension officer for Matabeleland North province, spoke to Busani Bafana about the climatic changes affecting Zimbabwe and how the government?s programmes and policies are addressing these changes.
IN: ?We seem to note that?
OUT: ?guiding all the processes involved?
Dumisani Nyoni of Zimbabwe?s agricultural extension service.
Nyoni We seem to note that there is a decline in rainfall received annually. There is also a decline in terms of the quality of the rainfall season; that is the spread of rainfall over the season, such that you might receive a lot of rain within a short space of time, but unfortunately the distribution is poor. We have also noticed that there is an increase of temperatures, that is also affecting, during the dry spells, the survival of the crops.
Bafana Would you say the farmers have started changing their farming methods in line with the climatic changes?
Nyoni The tendency now is to move away from the traditional cropping system, which was maize based, to production of sorghum, production of pearl millets, cowpeas, groundnuts, crops that can grow with about 350mm of rain. But of course what still needs to change, and change drastically, are our food preferences, because we might be growing sorghum or pearl millet, but few of our farmers in this area have a preference now for that food. But traditionally these were always the crops that were being grown.
Bafana Would you then say the extension services are addressing the issues of climatic change?
Nyoni We have weekly radio programmes that are looking at the seasonal forecast in terms of rainfall, and we have also now ten day forecasts, which indicate what temperatures will be like, that indicate what rainfall is likely to be received within that particular week or ten day period. What then happens is that as we broadcast these programmes to farmers, we have begun a process of making farmers aware of the impact of the weather on their cropping programmes, or their agricultural programmes.
Bafana For some farmers, the issue of climate change comes no doubt as a shock. Would you say you have encountered any major problems in trying to address this issue?
Nyoni Farmers are realising that there are changes taking place. It is only maybe that the process of discussing climate or global change issues in our region is still behind the international pace as it were. But farmers are realising that there are changes taking place, and probably the more we intensify environmental education, encompassing global change issues, I think farmers will begin to appreciate more and more, what they are contributing to environmental change, and how the environmental change is impacting on their lives.
Bafana And would you say there are any success stories?
Nyoni I would say we are moving in the right direction, in the sense that once farmers begin to appreciate that the natural resources management in their areas has an impact is terms of the quality of season they get, that is a step forward. Although unfortunately the limiting factor is poverty; farmers are beginning to realise that the moment you cut down or degrade the environment, it is bound to come back and haunt you, in terms of the rainfall you receive, in terms of the effectiveness of the rainfall you receive, and in terms of what agricultural practices you can perform on the ground. So this is a process that needs both education and also addressing issues of poverty, because the hungry man will not listen to reason, because he or she wants to fulfil the immediate need, that of food, first.
Bafana And lastly Mr. Nyoni, Zimbabwe has made great strides in actually changing the Environmental Act, in order to address several environmental issues, which I believe one of them is climatic change. What impact will the changes in the Act have?
Nyoni Having this Environmental Act in place will have a positive impact in terms of natural resources management in the country. What we need to do now, is educate and engage communities in thorough discussions, so that they see how they contribute to environmental change, how they need to contribute to environmental management, so that at the end of the day we produce whatever we produce on a sustainable basis. It?s going to be an engaging process that requires a lot of resources, and a lot of time. And we need to go into schools, we need to go into farming communities, with this message. But what is good about this Environmental Act, is that all government departments, all non-governmental organisations that have a part to play in environmental management issues, are going to go to the people, to the stakeholders, with one voice, with one Act guiding all the processes involved. End of track.||en_US