2 May 2016

Zimbabwe: Climate Change to Cause 38 Percent Decline in Agric Income

FARM incomes in Zimbabwe are expected to decline by as much as 38 percent by 2050, as temperatures soar 3,4 percent in what would be an unprecedented catastrophe for agriculture, according to a new study.

The study by Science Direct shows the extent of damage that climate change will have on rain-fed agriculture in four Sub-Saharan African countries including South Africa, Cameroon and Ethiopia. Higher temperatures will cause annual rainfall to decline by 1,1 percent here.

It predicts agriculture commodities prices will rise 3 to 7 percent by mid-century across the four economies due to increased scarcity.

In Zimbabwe, maize output is seen crashing 37,7 percent and cassava 0,2 percent.

It is not clear why the study focused on cassava in Zimbabwe -- a highly uncommon food source -- ignoring more widely consumed grains like sorghum or millet.

In the other three countries sorghum and maize output is expected to decline by between 6 percent and 30 percent.

"The expected changes in crop yields indicate that there is robust support for probable yield decline, which will in turn result in lowered farm income," said the study published last week by Science Direct, a global scientific body with over 3 000 peer-reviewed scholarly articles.

Agriculture is Zimbabwe's economic mainstay. Over 9 million people, or 70 percent of the population, are directly dependent on it, says the national statistical agency, ZimStats.

The sector provides 60 percent of the raw materials needed in manufacturing, and accounts for up to 18 percent of GDP and 40 percent of export earnings, but all this is likely to be cut by wide margins if the expected changes come full circle.

However, while agriculture makes up for a third of the formal labour force, it is one of the lowest paying industries.

A 2014 survey by the Government and international aid agencies showed that workers in agriculture take home between $65 and $70 each month -- the lowest by any industry.

But the sector faces some of the greatest risks from climate change. Communities are largely vulnerable and have little means to cope with the changes.

A season's drought forced on by El Nino has left 4 million people facing hunger, with Government appealing to global donors for $1,6 billion to save the situation.

Disease risk

According to the study, Zimbabwe will experience significant declines in the consumption of almost everything, from cereal to fats, protein and vitamins, putting many people at risk of diseases like anaemia and malnutrition among children.

Food shortages may make it difficult for communities to address HIV/AIDS, it said, a disease that is affecting over 1,2 million Zimbabweans

"Dryland (rain-fed) farmers in Zimbabwe may face larger decline in cereals consumption," noted the study titled 'Climate change and indicators of probable shifts in the consumption portfolios of dryland farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa: Implications for policy.'

"In case of meat consumption, sizeable declines resulting from higher consumption elasticity for Zimbabwean, South African and Cameroonian dryland farmers were observed."

Further, reduced oil and fat, as well as fruit consumption indicators also point toward enhanced potential deficiency of fats, vitamins and minerals.

"These inferences could consequently increase chronic malnutrition among children, as well as increased stunting rates," it says.

Zimbabwe is already struggling with mal-nutrition. Over 20 percent of children under 5 years are at risk, authorities say.

According to UN agencies, 33 000 children are at risk of severe mal-nutrition this year following the drought.

"Importantly, nutritional imbalances can be proportionally higher for girls, women, and the elderly, as they may buffer other members from food insufficiency by forgoing consumption in preference of male household members," said the report.

"Protein-energy malnutrition can also exacerbate the immuno-suppressive effects of HIV in affected populations."

The HIV infection rates range between 4 percent and 17,3 percent in the four countries in which the study was conducted.

In the end, it recommends some interventions that are already obvious, but others not so obvious.

"The overall message of this study is that the considered countries should focus also on national level intervention programs such as supplementary feeding programs (or food for work initiatives)," it concludes.

Focus should also centre on "low cost education (or educational assistance for children in areas of high impact) and health services (or health insurance programs) to dampen the secondary impacts of climate change on human development possibilities."

It adds: "These interventions are supplementary to the global level efforts on emission mitigation to reduce the overall climate change impacts, regional level actions to improve options of relocation and to increase the ability of alternative sectors to absorb more labour from agriculture, and farm level adaptation to boost yield and farm income."

God is faithful.

Zimbabwe

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