Climate Smart Innovations to Improve Agriculture in Zimbabwe

March 2, 2017


Geshmore Mushamba stands in a field of maize that has survived irregular weather patterns.

© Cheryl Khuphe/World Bank

  • Changing weather patterns as a result of global warming are leaving farmers unable to predict the ideal conditions to plant their crops.
  • A $1.5 million Climate Change Technical Assistance program is helping Zimbabwe fill knowledge gaps on how climate change is affecting agro-ecological zoning, irrigation, and livestock.
  • The technical assistance also seeks to mainstream climate change into public investment planning and create a pipeline of bankable climate adaptation investments.

BINDURA, March 2, 2017─ “It’s not looking good,” says Geshmore Mushamba, a farmer from Bindura, 88 kilometers north-east of Harare. “Last year we had a late crop and harvested well. This year we decided on an early crop and the beans are struggling to survive. This year we are looking at one ton per hectare, compared to 15 tons last year.”

The variability in his harvests comes from the change in weather patterns. He chose to farm beans because they are a drought resistant crop, but the heavy rainfall is now a problem.

“Growing up we could easily predict the weather. If the cold came in from Mozambique and the rains started in Chimoi, we knew it would only be a matter of time before the rains started here. We could even predict the amount. If there were a lot of wild mazhanje (sugar plum) during the year, we knew the rainfall would be heavy,” Mushamba explains.

The changing weather patterns around Zimbabwe, as a result of global warming, is evident to almost everyone in the agricultural sector, which the Zimbabwe Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper calls “the backbone of Zimbabwe’s economic development and the anchor for poverty eradication.”

Without predictable planting and harvesting seasons, farmers have to devise new strategies for producing food, families have to find alternate sources of nutrition and income, and communities have to find ways to protect those left most vulnerable. The Zimbabwe Reconstruction Fund has recently begun implementation of a $1.5 million Climate Change Technical Assistance (TA) program that seeks to further develop Zimbabwe’s strategies for climate smart agriculture, energy and water use, and forestry. The technical assistance also seeks to mainstream climate change into public investment planning, create a pipeline of bankable climate adaptation investments, and help authorities to mobilize climate-related financing.

This assistance will help fill knowledge gaps on how climate change is affecting agro-ecological zoning, irrigation, and livestock which will help farmers plan better. This component will also assess and build technical capacity in the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanization and Irrigation Development (MAMID) for irrigation planning and modeling.

The growing frequency and severity of droughts is increasing food insecurity and accelerating the demand for irrigation at a faster rate than farmers or the government can finance. To counter this, the assistance will also study the new water requirements and advise on appropriate irrigation technologies that are water-efficient and small scale. This will help to introduce innovative landscape management techniques into the forestry sector, and work on mitigating the impact of climate change in the water-energy nexus.  The program will also help Zimbabwe to implement its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to the climate agenda and to mobilize more climate financing.

“This technical assistance comes at the right time to provide the baseline and assist the country in coming up with solid project proposals to attract funding for implementing our NDC,” said Washington Zhakatha, a director working on climate change for the Ministry of Environment, Water, and Climate Change.

The timing coincides with the launch of the NDC Partnership between developing and developed countries and international institutions, last year at the United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Paris (COP22).  This partnership, to which Zimbabwe is a member, is working to ensure countries receive the support they need to achieve ambitious climate and sustainable development goals.

As communities struggle to make sense of the new weather patterns, this technical assistance will help them to adapt and anticipate the effects of climate change. Farmers like Mushamba will benefit from the government’s efforts to understand the extent to which climate change could shift the geographic location and characteristics of zones. The program under the Zimbabwe Reconstruction Fund (ZIMREF) will run until 2019.