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warnings provided by both our local and regional weather experts recently are quite clear on El.Nino
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warnings provided by both our local and regional weather experts recently are quite clear on El.Nino 

The warnings provided by both our local and regional weather experts recently are quite clear. We can either take them seriously and turn around or find out the hard way with serious implications on our national budgetary processes.

Elsewhere, in rich industrialised nations they are taking climate science seriously and are pouring billions of dollars to upgrade their climate science technologies.

Zimbabwe and most SADC countries are not doing much to invest in weather forecasting systems. We need to change our mindset when it comes to climate science because we are very vulnerable as a country and region to drought shocks.

Climate experts have already told us that Zimbabwe and the entire SADC region must brace for another season of normal to below-normal rainfall as we face another El Niño weather pattern, which can turn out to be much similar or closer to the 2015-2016 El Nino-induced drought.

Our experts, both at local and SADC level forecast that the 2018-2019 rainfall season could be affected by the El Niño phenomenon, which is usually associated with droughts in the region.

Zimbabwe and other SADC countries are heavily reliant on rain-fed agriculture, which could be heavily impacted by the El Nino weather conditions.

Our leaders and policymakers were warned about this at the just-ended 38th SADC Heads of State and Government Summit which was held in Windhoek, Namibian.

Unmitigated climate change is hitting us hard and is testing the limits of our way of life and our strategies to absorb shocks that come with this weather phenomenon.

Zimbabwe and other SADC countries all have comprehensive disaster risk management strategies in thick volumes. We have the papers and action plans, but we are all poor when it comes to taking heed of the El Nino alerts from our weather experts and secondly, to rolling our plans ahead of the impending drought conditions.

We know that drought is a perennial development challenge for Zimbabwe and the entire southern Africa, but we have been found wanting in implementing effective resilience strategies.

Zimbabwe and other SADC countries must all lead their drought-resilience strategies instead of being led by donors when disaster strikes.

Let’s pay attention to the forecast by our weather men. We must not ignore their warnings and be lulled into a false sense of complacency.

The El Nino-induced drought is a dangerous phenomenon that battered us badly in the 2015-2016 cropping seasons.

It has also battered other nations, causing massive flooding and droughts that have affected livelihoods, food production, water availability, public health and energy.

In both urban and rural settings, we all felt it. It was all around us and we saw first hand the effects of scarce rainfall during that period when our rivers and reservoir levels were below normal.

Before this drought hammered us, our weather experts all predicted the El Nino-induced drought. We never took them seriously until it was too late.

The impact of the drought that swept across the Sadc region in the 2015-2016 period was felt across all sectors including agriculture, food and nutrition security, tourism, energy, health, water and sanitation and education.

A majority of small-scale farmers struggled to produce enough food to feed their families owing to the drought that ravaged most parts of Zimbabwe.

The drought left up to 40 million people in need of food assistance across the region, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation. Out of this, 23 million required immediate assistance.

Zimbabwe was one of the worst affected countries by the driest year in decades that faced southern Africa — including Malawi, Zambia, Lesotho, Swaziland and South Africa.

The UN’s World Food Programme reported that about 16 million people in southern Africa faced hunger due to poor harvests in 2015, caused by El Nino weather conditions.

Dam levels dropped to their worst levels in decades, while pasture and water scarcity decimated 643 000 livestock with an estimated value of up to US$1,9 billion.

The devastating El Nino episode disrupted the economies of most Sadc countries in the 2015-2016 season.

It was a clear wake up call to all of us that we should not take for granted what weather experts tell us and forecast.

We all know that it is more costly to react than to be prepared.

Warning signs are here again and adverse for rain in coming months suggest that our policymakers, farmers and key decision making organs both in Government and NGOs should prepare for this looming drought.

More information should be availed to our smallholder farmers to prepare for an agricultural drought.

They must be helped to heed the warning coming from our weather men.

We must ratchet up the promotion of sustainable agricultural practices that can help them cope with drought.

We must encourage them to use innovative farming techniques to grow more food with less water, to avoid losing water to evaporation and prevent soil erosion.

Our farmers must also be encouraged to grow drought-tolerant crops like millet and sorghum that can thrive in drought conditions.

We also need to promote irrigation agriculture in a more robust way.

In addition to this, our farmers must be supported to diversify how they make a living away from crop farming into other profitable alternatives that include ecotourism, conservation agriculture, fisheries, and natural product harvesting and marketing.

Zimbabwe and all other SADC countries should not let ineffective policies and poor governance compound the impact of drought on food insecurity, health and other critical areas.

We all know that droughts are becoming more frequent and more severe, driving up food insecurity and inhibiting regional growth.

We cannot escape recurring drought emergencies and stay on a path of sustainable development if we don’t mitigate these risks.

Donors can pour millions of dollars in their humanitarian efforts, but we need effective resilience strategies that must be country-led.

Country led efforts are more sustainable than donor-led ones. And on this front, political will is key in building the resilience to harness resources effectively and promote policies that can help our people to cope with drought shocks.

Our climate adaptation policies should not be kept on our shelves, but must be implemented to help the most vulnerable to better cope with droughts.

This latest drought warning should serve as an opportunity for Zimbabwe and other governments in the region to take heed of the warnings coming from our weather experts to prepare for the worst.

If a drought occurs, development is stifled and our food import bill balloons, chewing up resources for other critical areas such as drugs, fuel, machinery and other critical goods and services.

The scale and complexities of these cyclical droughts now requires us to improve on our early warning systems and pay particular attention to what our weather men tell us.

Walking the talk on our drought mitigation plans is now more urgent than ever before. If we don’t prepare, then we are planning to fail when the crisis reaches epidemic proportions.

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