Policies key in face of climate change
Kudakwashe Collen Chirigo
ZIMBABWE is at a crossroads, and the long-term welfare of literally millions of its people is at stake in the wake of climate change, which has been sneaking up on the country’s citizens for many decades now.
Rapid and uncertain changes in rainfall patterns and temperature regimes threaten food production, increase the vulnerability of Zimbabwean farmers and are resulting in food price shocks and increased rural and urban poverty.
Agriculture, now both a “victim and culprit” relative to climate change, is partly to blame for global warming.
The production of crops and animal products, and the associated land-use and cover changes, releases roughly 10-12 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents per year, about 24 percent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Regardless, policymakers and development practitioners still see farmers, especially smallholder producers, as the driving force of economic growth and poverty reduction.
Therefore, mainstreaming climate change into the agricultural development agenda must be a key priority.
The good news is, however, that there are interventions applicable to Zimbabwean farming systems that will simultaneously increase yields, increase resilience to climate change, reduce GHG emission and increase the stock of carbon in the soil.
Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) is an approach for addressing food security challenges under the new realities of climate change.
CSA identifies synergies and tradeoffs among food security, adaptation and mitigation as a basis for reorienting agricultural policies and practices in response to climate change.
Examples of CSA include improving the efficiency of water and nutrient use, use of diverse varieties and breeds, integrated pest management, integrated crop, livestock and agro-forestry system, and improved grassland management.
With climate-smart technologies, the threats of climate change to Zimbabwean agriculture can be reduced by increasing the adaptive capacity of farmers, increasing resilience and resource use efficiency, and enhancing the mitigation potential of agricultural landscapes.
However, the need for an enabling governance and policy system is imperative, not only for development of technologies and innovations, but also for their successful adoption and effective use.
There is a growing realisation that indigenous knowledge, technologies, and practices could contribute significantly to meeting the challenges of climate change.
Yet their widespread use is limited by the lack of an enabling policy environment.
The nexus between agricultural research, improved technologies and practices, and policy is a key determinant of the resilience of the Zimbabwe agricultural sector to climate change, and the sector’s ability to become more productive and support economic growth and development, poverty reduction, and the improvement of livelihoods.
The major obstacle to integrating climate issues into development activities in Zimbabwe has been and still remains the lack of appropriate institutions to facilitate the incorporation of science into policy.
Over the last few years, Africa’s negotiating position on climate change has been guided and co-ordinated by the African Union Assembly, the Committee of African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change, the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment, and the African Group of Negotiators.
Moreover, the regional economic communities, as well as the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, have developed strategies for climate change adaptation for the continent.
Governments have developed national adaptation programmes of action and national adaptation plans of action, as the case may be.
However, a key limitation of these initiatives is their inadequate consideration of science-based evidence, which is a result of weak linkages between researchers and policymakers at country level.
Therefore, the development of reliable scientific evidence to inform policy on climate change adaptation in Zimbabwe, as well as institutionalising effective dialogue between researchers and Zimbabwe policymakers, is crucial to support adaptation to climate change.
The proliferation of national level plans for coping with climate change in Zimbabwe is both a positive and a negative circumstance.
It provides scope for establishing a national framework continuum for climate change adaptation.
However, the divergence in the level of development of various related ministries coupled with disparities in commitment to mainstreaming climate change into national development plans is undermining the achievement of potential gains from coordinated efforts to adapt to climate change across the country.
Policies play an important role in increasing climate change adaptability and resilience.
For example, it is now becoming well known that access to adequate inputs, including seed, fertiliser and credit, can be enhanced by appropriate government policies.
However, there is a divergence across our ministries in the institutional arrangements for policy formulation and implementation for climate change adaptation.
The lack of delineation between climate change and environment-related issues has brought about some confusion, as they tend to be treated as one and the same thing.
This is reflected in the current institutional architecture, which has been designed mainly to address environmental issues and may not be sufficiently robust to allow for the integration of climate change into the plans, programmes, and projects of all relevant sectors of the economy.
Some agricultural policies should be commonly applied in response to climate change impacts, such as drought and rainfall variability.
Nevertheless, it is important to have strategies that are directly aimed at adapting to climate change hence taking into account the dynamic nature of climate change.
At the same time, other sectors need to take into consideration the impacts of climate change on their sectors.
Agricultural and environmental policies need to be harmonised in Zimbabwe — Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate Resources may coordinate climate change policies, but climate change adaptation processes occur mostly in the agriculture sector.
While cross-sectoral linkages, especially those connecting agriculture and climate, are new to Zimbabwe, some countries have started responding to this need.
For example, in Kenya a model was developed in which a national climate change secretariat, based at the Ministry of Environment and Mineral Resources, coordinates climate change units found within other relevant government ministries, including the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA).
The mandate of the MoA climate change unit is to ensure the mainstreaming of climate change into all of the ministry’s projects and programmes.
These types of integrated mechanisms require significant institutional changes, but would be important for drawing together CSA projects that have diverse sources of funds.
It is also important to tap into indigenous knowledge systems to improve climate change adaptation and resilience.
Some evidence shows that, despite poor governance and policy, some indigenous systems can be efficient and resilient to climate change.
For example, the pastoral system of livestock production has been observed to be climate resilient despite the fact that many government policies and strategies have not recognised and supported this system.
There is therefore need to recognise the contribution of indigenous knowledge to the preservation, identification and development of appropriate varieties and breeds adapted to climate change in Zimbabwe.
There is also need to look into how the Zimbabwean land tenure systems is affecting climate change adaptation strategies.
Although it is difficult to establish direct linkages between climate change and land tenure, it is clear that climate change will affect land use and adaptive interventions that are in turn dependent on land tenure systems.
Insecure land tenure hampers both local and foreign investment in agriculture and climate change mitigation because of the perceived risks involved when property rights are uncertain. Insecure tenure arrangements create disincentives for people to invest in adaptation activities and to invest in land.
Therefore Zimbabwean land policy and tenure systems need to provide for adequate tenure security, in order to provide incentives for good land and resource management and reduce smallholders’ vulnerability.
Furthermore, land tenure systems need to provide sufficient flexibility to allow the adaptation of land rights to evolving land uses and increased demand for land.
Climate change would impact on land access and redistribution, urban settlement, governance of land resources, the reform and development of land institution, management of common property resources and land use regulation and environmental protection.
Farmers need to have assurances that they would be able to work their land under a given certificate of ownership, or a legally recognised long-term lease.
Land tenure security is an important prerequisite for households farming irrigated plots, and for producers wishing to invest in diversification and intensification programmes in their communities.
Moreover, banks require such assurances when farmers ask for credit. It is this assurance that enables them to justify longer-term investments in their land and their farming operations.
Thus addressing the impacts of climate change on land tenure systems requires mainstreaming of climate change adaptation into national planning and policy frameworks. In some sub-Saharan Africa countries, such as Malawi, land policies are being debated and subjected to ongoing processes of reform, which presents an opportunity to ensure that land policies reflect consideration of likely future demands imposed by climate change.
Our climate change policies should also be gender sensitive. Although it is often assumed that gender refers only to women, a meaningful gender analysis also considers men and the differences between men and women.
Gender is about relationships and power dynamics; it refers to socially constructed differences between men and women and is an acquired identity that is learned, changes over time and varies widely within and across cultures, differences in roles and responsibilities, access to and control over resources, and decision-making power are all informed by gender.
Because of the distinct work that men and women do, largely dictated by gender norms, men and women perceive climate change differently and they are affected by it in different ways.
Such differences have implications for policy and development programmes.
In Zimbabwe, men and women share food production responsibilities, where men are primarily responsible for cash crops and large livestock production, and women are primarily responsible for food crop production, small stock production, fuel wood and manure collection.
Land tenure systems and the availability of funds to invest in improved technologies are some of the common gender-sensitive problems predominantly faced by women farmers that constitute major barriers to the adoption of Climate-Smart Agriculture in Zimbabwe.
This approach to understanding the impacts of climate change permits Zimbabwean researchers, policy makers and development workers to understand the social dimensions of climate change, and to therefore structure policies, projects, and research in a manner that acknowledges these complexities and accounts for different local priorities and needs.
Thus by understanding how climate change is impacting men and women (based on their distinct roles and access to resources), Zimbabwean development programmes and policies can be designed to promote adaptation strategies that address such impacts in a gender-equitable manner.
Land access for the disadvantaged groups is another factor that cannot be ignored if successful climate change policies are to be developed and adopted in Zimbabwe. The poor and disadvantaged in communities need not only access to land, but also ownership rights.
Recent studies show that in many countries, even though the land laws and policies mandate equality of men and women under statutory law, the institutions for land administration still discriminate against women, either explicitly or implicitly.
A climate change mitigation and adaption policy in Zimbabwe requires measures to protect the poor and vulnerable from loss of livelihood resources.
Government also needs to develop opportunities for the poor to gain direct benefits as a result of climate change mitigation measures, in particular avoiding deforestation.
Women and other vulnerable groups are likely to be poor, with weak or restricted access to land and natural resource assets, and as a result have limited adaptive capacity.
Throughout Africa, women have very limited rights to land.
Although many countries have put in place statutory laws that are meant to ensure women’s access to land, yet such legislation is often poorly implemented in rural areas, if at all; customary land tenure is what governs land access and ownership.
These important issues need to comprise a major part of the land reforms agenda in Zimbabwe.
There would be need to target women in the implementation of land policy reforms and climate change adaptation.
These efforts will need to be backed by development of better legal frameworks for the regulation of adaptation and mitigation activities.
Another land policy implication is the need for resettlement planning and a stronger role for the government in land use planning in areas at risk and available for resettlement.
This requires investment in land inventory and land occupation surveys, both in potential resettlement areas and areas at risk of loss, which in turn would require development of dedicated land information systems.
Public land acquisition may be needed to impede occupation in at-risk areas and for resettlement, but this is also likely to require schemes for land sharing or release from private ownership, and to promote land rentals and the good use of available public land.
In many cases provision of small-scale house and garden plots may be the only options, given high population densities and intense competition for land, and resettlement would need to be accompanied by employment generation and diversification out of farming and dependence on natural resources.
Kudakwashe Collen Chirigo is an MSc agricultural economics graduate, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa contactable at email@example.com (+263 773 368 700/+263 718 868 700).
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