Govt considers climate smart irrigation policy

BY TATIRA ZWINOIRA

GOVERNMENT is working on a climate smart irrigation policy framework to combat the current drought conditions, Agriculture deputy minister Vangelis Haritatos (pictured) has said.

This comes as a recent World Bank report found that Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector loses US$126 million per annum due to production risks largely associated with drought and other weather-related events.

The current 2018/19 agricultural season is currently facing drought.

“First and foremost, climate change is real. We need people to understand and we do not just need Zimbabweans to understand it, we need the world to understand it. What has happened is because of what the developed world has done, they have caused climatic changes for developing countries like Zimbabwe,” Haritatos told NewsDay last week.

“So we have erratic rains, dry spells, seriously (heavy) and damaging rains. You saw Cyclone Idai. That is your climate change, so what? That basically means we are having to redesign agriculture so that we move away from rain-fed agriculture to climate-smart irrigation so that is what we have done. This is part of the policy frameworks we are looking at and unfortunately the saddest part about it is that it requires a lot of money.”

He said the shift required revenue which government did not have.

The climate smart irrigation would see government providing irrigation to help provide small and large scale farmers with enough water for their crops in seasons plagued by drought conditions.

Drought conditions affect the main food and cash crops in Zimbabwe which include maize, wheat, small grains (millets and sorghum), tobacco, cotton, sugar, horticulture (food and non-food) and groundnuts.

“As you know, we are trying to regrow our economy again and this (climate change) is something that, maybe 10 years ago, we did not know about. Now, we have to use revenue that we should have used for other production, productivity or growing our private sectors and manufacturing to actually go towards investing in this climate smart irrigation that we have to do,” Haritatos said.

He said part of the redesigning involved assisting farmers to mechanise in the wake of a 33 000 tractor deficit and other farming implements.
“Why mechanisation is important is because if farmers grow in time…we know that despite climatic changes they will still have a good crop,” he said.

According to the inaugural ‘Agricultural Sector Survey 2018-2019’ report prepared by CBZ Bank, the Zimbabwe Agricultural Society and the Financial Gazette released last week, climatic changes has severely impacted farming.

“Climate change has adverse effects on the country, mainly due to an increase in the intensities and/or frequency of natural events, increased drought and floods occurrence in Zimbabwe. The effects of adverse natural events are already being felt. Extreme climate events are having a strong impact on agricultural production in the country and, in turn, on GDP,” the Agricultural Sector Survey 2018-2019 report reads.

“The agricultural sector is particularly prone to crop yield loss and damage to livestock, fishery and aquaculture infrastructures, and irrigation structures.
Two critical impacts of climate change are (not) only on agriculture, but also (on) rural livelihoods (where there is) reduced water availability especially for small-scale agriculture.”

Agriculture plays a key role in Zimbabwe, contributing 11% to the total gross domestic product and remains the main source of livelihood for around 67% of the country’s population.

The World Bank in its report titled Zimbabwe: Agriculture Sector Disaster Risk Assessment said Zimbabwe could significantly benefit if production risks related to drought and climatic changes were reduced.