Recent studies which use global circulation models show that from the current period up to the year 2080, Zimbabwe will face a general decrease, variability, reliability and predictability in rainfall patterns while temperatures will rise by two degrees Celsius. Such a change has a serious consequence on the countryâ€™s food security thus the need for contingency measures to be put in place.
It is now universally agreed that climate change and climate variability are among the greatest challenges facing mankind in the 21st century. Until recently concerns have been raised that no one is taking the responsibility to advise farmers on when to plant, what to plant and how to plant in line with the changing climate that has become a reality.
Studies done at the University of Zimbabwe using the global circulation model have revealed that the onset, cessation and durations of effective rainfall seasons have become more variable and unpredictable making it difficult for leaders to advise farmers on the way forward in the face of climate change.
University of Zimbabwe lecturer Dr. Amon Murwira said in the 60s, 70s and 80s, droughts would recur after every 10 years which is different from the current scenario where rainfall has become more unreliable in terms prediction. This has been attributed to global warming as temperatures have risen by 2 degrees Celsius resulting in the shifting of the traditional farming seasons and agro-ecological zones.
Environment and Natural Resources Minister Cde Francis Nhema said the rate at which global climate change is happening is the most pressing environmental challenge the country is facing today which is affecting global food production.
He said month on month rainfall patterns indicate that there will be less and less rainfall in December and March hence the need for people to start adapting to the changes.
The effect of climate change on agriculture especially in areas that will be suitable for growing crops such as maize, sorghum and cotton by 2080 in Zimbabwe, Dr Murwira said studies have revealed that there will be a general decrease in areas suitable for maize growing from 85% to 75% while some areas like in the South Western part of the country will experience problems as they might be totally unsuitable for maize growing.
He however said all is not doomed in the agriculture sector with the decrease in maize growing area in some provinces as research indicated that there will be an increase in the sorghum and cotton growing areas from 20% to 50% and 25% to 30% respectively by 2080. What this implies is that there is need to promote the planting of small grains to mitigate the effects of such changes.
During the sixties and seventies, droughts used to recur roughly every 10 years. By the eighties the frequencies had increased to every 4-5 years and by the late nineties, the country was witnessing alternative wet and dry years every three years. Zimbabwe had a severe drought in the 1971-72 season and in the 1982-83 season. Again there was a severe drought in the 1991-92 season. However, since the turn of the millennium, the country had successive droughts from 2001 -2003, 2004-2005 and 2006 -2007 thus calling for new mitigation and adaptation measures such as irrigation. In most rural areas water is already getting scarce particularly fresh water as rivers are no longer perennially flowing but drying up rapidly due to sporadic rains as a result of climate changes.