Smallholder farmers in Murehwa, Zimbabwe team up to confront climate change impacts

Article, 16.05.2018

Smallholder farmers in Juru, Murehwa District of Mashonaland East province in Zimbabwe have been experiencing unreliable rainfall patterns and problems associated with droughts.

As Zimbabwe’s climate changes, small-scale farmers are increasingly looking to innovative ways of dealing with agricultural challenges. And in some instances, the techniques they adopt are helping to combat climate change, too.
Smallholder farmers in Murehwa, Zimbabwe team up to confront climate change impacts © SDC, 2018.

Farmers have been losing up to about 50 percent of their harvest, many water sources have dried up and some are having to travel up to eight kilometres to look for drinking water. Much of the water that is available is of poor quality, making it unsuitable for drinking or agricultural use.

But thanks to Biowatch and the Zimbabwe Smallholder Organic Farmers’ Forum (ZIMSOFF) with financial support from Switzerland, the farmers are now devising innovative ways of coping with climate change-related impacts that inflict untold sufferings upon their communities.

Esnat Mutembedza, chairperson of the ZIMSOFF northern cluster farmers group, is one of the many farmers adopting innovative ways of dealing with agricultural challenges in Murehwa.

The recent rains were poor, making it extremely tough for Esnat and other farmers to grow enough food to feed their families. Faced with climate change related problems, Esnat joined ZIMSOFF with the hope that together they would be able to confront the challenges they are facing.

“We have many challenges in this area. One of the reasons we joined ZIMSOFF was because we want farming to be a sustainable business,” says Esnat. “For some time we have been growing crops that have not done well so we came together to work out what will grow successfully in this climate.

“Another challenge we face is water for domestic use and livestock. The rains have become more unreliable in recent years and we have to travel long distances to get water. We waste a lot of time collecting it which could be used for other activities.”

In addition to water scarcity, another problem facing the community is the loss of crops due to pests and disease.

Most farmers lack access to agricultural technology that would help protect and preserve their harvests. Thus, their income remains low, leaving them trapped in a cycle of poverty and making them unable to produce enough surplus to sell.

To help farmers address the various challenges, ZIMSOFF, has been working with the farmers to train them in organic farming, seed production and natural resource management in order to ensure that issues of food sovereignty, land justice, and environmental justice are represented in local, national, and regional spaces.

Esnat is one of about 100 local farmers who have received training in farming techniques to conserve water and soil. They are also being trained to produce high-quality seeds which are more resistant to pests and diseases.

In addition, farmers group are being supported to come up with water harvesting techniques, alternative animal feed, agroforestry and the use of fodder in order to improve farmers’ resilience to the challenges of climate change.

With the right training and support being provided by ZIMSOFF, Esnat and other smallholder farmers in her community are become more resilient to the type of climate shocks and trends which affect Murehwa. By increasing the amount they can harvest they are becoming more able to feed their families and earn additional income from selling their surplus, which is invested to further improve their small plots.

The farmers’ group in Murehwa is hopeful about what the future holds as unpredictable weather and natural disasters hamper food security across the region.