“We used to be able to grow everything we want but that has all changed.”
— Matsapi Nyathi, Grandmother
Those who are most affected by carbon emissions in our planet’s atmosphere are the world’s poorest communities. Since 1987, Zimbabwe has experienced its six warmest years on record with daily minimum and maximum temperatures rising by approximately two degrees Celsius over the past century. These drastic conditions have caused droughts, decreased the freshwater supply, and destroyed biodiversity, ultimately affecting the country’s agricultural production, the backbone of Zimbabwe’s livelihood.
The country is largely dependent on rural economic activities as the agriculture sector provides employment and income for as much as 60 to 70 percent of the population and contributes approximately 17 percent to the national GDP. Low and erratic rainfall, low and declining soil fertility, low investment, shortages of farm power, poor institutional infrastructure, and food insecurity are the country’s main challenges and periodic droughts only add to the vulnerability of Zimbabwe. Within its poorest class, the peasant sector, which produces seventy percent of staple foods like maize, millets, and groundnuts, is particularly vulnerable as they don’t have access to proper irrigation and freshwater.
Irrigation is an important adaptation strategy for Zimbabwean farmers who are facing a changing climate. A 2007 study found there is a direct correlation between socioeconomic variables, climate, and farm revenues. Still, the country continues to gamble on rainfall, uncertainty continues to increase, and extreme weather continues to add to the problem. Not only is there less rain but rain also comes at a different time of the year and in different areas, creating erratic conditions for small farmers that used to rely on weather predictions.