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Gokwe villagers attribute the lack of inputs and climate change effects to drought

…says its difficulty to implement Pfumvudza/Intwasa without inputs

Perseverance Javangwe

Villagers in Gokwe, the southern part of Zimbabwe, under Chief Njelele have bemoaned the shortage of farming inputs, and climate change effects in making the Pfumvudza/Intwasa initiative a success while leading to drought amongst some villagers who are forced to engage in unfair piece work in order to irk a living.

Climate change has been at the epicenter of rural communities, as they struggle to adapt to the effects of the climate crisis. The increasing demand for food, and environmental stressors are some of the most challenging problems that rural societies face today. Seeking to discuss these important issues, Community Voices Zimbabwe (CVZ) held a community dialogue at Chief Njelele’s area in Gokwe the southern part of Zimbabwe to give villagers the platform to discuss some of the direct, and indirect causes of drought in their area. During the dialogue, villagers in Gokwe stated that the lack of farming inputs is making it difficult for farmers to utilize this initiative.

“The challenge is that we are not being given all the inputs equally. If one receives a bag of fertilizer then he will not be given maize seeds, and those who receive maize seeds will not get fertilizer. When they come the following month, they distribute fertilisers to the ones who did not receive anything the last time, but I am still waiting for the second round to receive fertilisers for the plants that I have already plowed. This is causing drought. We are supposed to receive everything at once so that we manage to harvest well and end a drought,” said Mai Shumba.

“The challenge is that there is a shortage of inputs for us to fully utilize Pfumvudza. When the inputs are delivered here, maybe those people will receive them, and by the time the next batch receives the maize seeds the first batch will be targeting fertilisers. By the time they come for the third batch we will be in March, and nothing we plant then will grow well. When they bring fertilisers not everyone will receive, the bags, and those who do not get anything will not harvest. Furthermore, the maize seeds do not come in time, they usually come around December, which might be late for pfumvudza,” added Rodwell Mandla.

The government of Zimbabwe introduced the Pfumvudza/Intwasa initiative, a resilient strategy against climate change-induced drought impacts in the rural communities of Zimbabwe. Climate change-induced droughts impacts greatly affected communal farmers who depended on rain-fed agriculture. This led to food insecurity which attracted donor aid year after year. After a series of research, and testing it was found out that Pfumvudza increased resilience against climate change-induced drought impacts and improved yields in rural communities where it was implemented. According to Gokwe villagers, yes this is a great initiative, but for it to be utilized to its maximum potential there is a need to provide the necessary inputs.

“…I agree Pfumvudza is a great initiative, but it works only if we get all the required inputs. This is the only method that is better than the older ones that we used to implement back then. Even if we receive low rainfall, pfumvudza works well because it keeps the plants healthy.

“Another challenge when it comes to Pfumvudza is that we are being given seeds that do not match the type of soil we have here. We are just being given seeds, even the old stock which will not grow well. So sometimes we waste time planting the seeds that will not grow well, and by the time we replant the season will elapsed, it becomes difficult,” said Rosy Manyewu.

Farmer Robert Mushina said even if the rains fall well during the anticipated time, some will not yield anything from their fields because they do not have all the inputs at their disposal, especially fertilisers. This is driving some villagers to go and work in the fields of those who had all the inputs, and harvested well. However, what they are paid there will not sustain them further.

“For some of us, the biggest challenge is getting fertilisers because sometimes the rains will fall well, but because there are no fertilisers the crops will not do well. Some will be lucky to have everything at their disposal which is why those affected by drought will end up going to search for piece jobs in their fields. This is where some will work two acres, and get a gallon of maize. So for us to deal with drought situations we need assistance in getting all the necessary inputs,” he said.

Community Engagement meeting at Chief Njelele’s area-Gokwe: Picture by Perseverance Javangwe

Sub-Saharan Africa has been identified as the most vulnerable region to climate variability, and change because many areas inherently receive unpredictable rainfall (IPCC,2007). Zimbabwe is one of the ‘hotspots’ for climate change, with predicted increases in temperatures and rainfall variability, and increased probability of extreme events such as droughts and flash floods. Smallholder farmers are vulnerable to the impacts of the changing climate because of multiple interacting stresses, such as soil degradation.

“It is very true that drought is being caused by lack of rainfall. When we link this to climate change we have learnt that nowadays some companies are producing smoke from burning fossil fuels, which is now destroying the ozone layer at alarming levels as compared to long back, while affecting weather patterns. We do believe this because there has been a shift in the time that the rains used to fall. There are situations where you can observe that those who plant their seeds late will harvest, and even those who plant very early can get a good harvest. All this is leading to confusion amongst farmers who are not then sure of the best time to plant their seeds resulting in drought. So in the end farming is no longer profitable

“There is a need to address the issue of deforestation which is also causing climate change. When people cut down trees, they burn them resulting in the smoke attributed earlier which is not good for the ozone layer. Trees save us from a lot of things, especially in breaking winds, and more thereby assisting in dealing against the climate crisis,” said Hebert Muwani.

Muwani went on further to say there is a need for farmers to implement new ways of farming in order to increase the chance of harvesting while advising on the type of grains that have been doing well in a changing climate.

“…there is a need for us to improve the way we do our farming. The pfumvudza initiative is very useful nowadays because it helps contain the little rainfall when there is low rainfall this helps the plants to contain the water needed for growth, and health for several days. I used the initiative in 2021, and surely it worked well for me. The mulching part is relevant and keeps the crops healthy. The old ways of farming, yes might work, but oftentimes, the soil will need feeding, which is difficult to do for the majority of the fields. But the inputs should be distributed in time, to make this initiative a success. We should also be given the amount of what to receive so that we know how much land we need to prepare for the seed plants and the inputs should be given to everyone,”

“As farmers, we should also adopt farming small grains because they have profit. As farmers, we should encourage each other to plant small grains. Small grains are healthy, and they are now being recommended for farmers,” he said.

Speaking in an interview with this reporter, environmentalist, and climate change expert Pascal Shuro said the rural communities have been at the forefront of the effects of climate change, and there is thus a need for addressing their plights so that they are able to adapt, and even mitigate the effects of climate change.

“The farming inputs have been a challenge for most rural farmers in Zimbabwe. I think there is a need for a collective effort to assist the rural communities to get access to all the required farming inputs so that they can utilize the pfumvudza initiative which has been approved to be one of the best ways for rural farmers to yield better harvest. The rural communities also need assistance with small grains which have been doing well for many farmers in different regions of the country, and these assist in adapting to climate change,” he said.

Farming depends on timing, and therefore there is a need for the government to ensure that farmers receive enough inputs, and on time to ensure early planning.

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