Climate change hits us all but the most damaging impacts are seen in the rural areas, where most smallholder farmers are extremely vulnerable to climate hazards as a result of poverty and weak access to services and institutional resources.
In Binga District, women farmers are faced with a diverse array of shocks and stresses which provide a near constant challenge to successful farming and individual household and community resilience.
The district falls in Natural Region V and is characterised by low and erratic annual rainfall of 400mm to 600mm, poor soils and high temperatures.
With most of their crops being affected by unpredictable weather, Binga women living in Zyakamana village implemented a goat breeding initiative with support from ActionAid Zimbabwe in partnership with the Zimbabwe Resilience Building Fund (ZRBF) and the Zambezi Valley Alliance (ZVA) to counter effects of climate change.
ActionAid Zimbabwe Resilience Team Leader Mr Ebenezer Tombo said the women formed the Ziyabapota Goat Breeding Group which comprises 12 members, eight women and four men, who live in Zyakamana village.
“The group is spearheaded by women and has seen positive strides towards increased resilience. The group’s journey began in 2017 with the introduction of a Matabele buck to their existing herd,” said Mr Tombo.
The Matabele breed is a large-framed animal which is adapted to local conditions and is bred for both meat and milk production. Its introduction to the group’s existing herd has increased the average size, resilience and value of their livestock assets.
“Over the past three years the group successfully bred and maintained their herd, eventually reaching a sizeable number of 165 animals in July 2020. At this point the buck passed on and the group continued to breed using the first-generation progeny,” said Mr Tombo.
Ziyabapota group leader Mrs Thandazile Sithole said the initiative has greatly uplifted her livelihood.
“After acquiring 35 offspring bred from the Matabele goat, I am selling the improved breeds at US$20 to US$25 each whereas previously, I used to sell my goats at US$10 to US$15. The value of my assets has thus increased by 70 percent to 100 percent,” said Mrs Sithole.
Overall the group has managed to raise US$1 650 from sale of goats bred from this initial introduction of the Matabele buck.
With an aim to layer sequence interventions and diversify their income Mrs Sithole and group members have also purchased a grinding mill for commercial purposes.
“The grinding mill was bought using our own money from a ZRBF and ZVA instigated internal savings and lending scheme with the balance coming from ZRBF and ZVA support,” said Mrs Sithole.
The grinding mill is contributing to reducing costs for the goat project through local feed formulation, thereby increasing profit margins.
The group has made a profit on 94 buckets of maize ground for community members earning them US$564.
Money from scheme was also used to buy additional goats for breeding and the eventual sales of these goats rose by US$625.
This remarkable group in Zyakamana village, is sustaining their families, paying school fees for their children, buying farming inputs, purchasing food for their day-to-day consumption and paying for the construction of small dams, and renovating their household.
Other profits from their operations were used to build a storeroom and a shed for their grinding mill, as well as for repairs.
Ziyabapota group members have managed to enhance their adaptive capacities through livestock increases and sustainable livelihood strategies which are providing them with multiple revenue streams and increasing their resilience to the area’s shocks and hazards.
“As a group in 2021 we plan to commercialise our initiative by looking for markets where we can sell our goats and we also want to change a Matabele goat with a Boer so that we further improve our breeds,” said Mrs Sithole.
While it is commendable that rural women in Binga have found solutions to counter effects of climate researchers say more still needs to be done to counter the effects of climate change in rural areas.
In his research titled, ‘Resilience Strategies of rural people in the face of climate change’, Mr Louis Nyahunda said there was need to scale up climate change information dissemination.
“There is need to heighten the level of dissemination of information about climate change and resilience which in many rural communities is still lagging behind and social workers should be on the lead on this request.
“Social workers should play key roles on education, awareness, and consciousness building; advocating for policy initiatives that reward climate change mitigation, green technology and sustainable development,” said Mr Nyahunda.
He indicated that there is a need for policy development and implementation and urged the Government to mainstream climate change into its rural development policies and strengthen national bodies that actively look at climate-change adaptation and mitigation and match policy with budget allocation.
“Efforts need to be enhanced that will help the provinces to access the existing funding facilities related to climate change,” added Mr Nyahunda.
He also highlighted that early warning and response strategies for mitigating the impacts of climate variability need to be enhanced in the country mostly in rural communities.
Additionally, he said monitoring, research and preparedness strategies need to be further strengthened and social workers should partner with other stakeholders to ensure the realisation of this initiative.
Another researcher, Mr David Moyo said one of the most important ways to help rural poor people adapt to climate change is to address rural poverty.
“Poverty characterised by lack of techno-science based adaptation mechanisms are still missing in rural people which is consequently crippling their adaptive capacity to climate change,” said Mr Moyo.
Last year the Government through its Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement, Climate Change Department and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) launched the Green Climate Fund (GCF)-financed ‘Building Climate Resilience of Vulnerable Agricultural Livelihoods in Southern Zimbabwe project.’
The innovative US$26,6 million initiative aims to reach 2,3 million vulnerable smallholder farmers improve food security, and build resilience for people whose lives and livelihoods are being put at risk in the face of climate risks and impacts.
“This project comes at an opportune time where addressing climate change impacts require significant financial and technical support. Most vulnerable and poor communities have limited capacity to adapt to the impacts of climate change, with 80 percent of Zimbabweans being dependent on rain fed agriculture,” said Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement Dr John Basera.
That way, more projects like Ziyabapota’s would make a bigger difference in the national effort to effectively respond to the impacts of climate change.