Zimbabwean farmers offered practical advice to cope with climate change

By agency reporter
February 3, 2009

Development agency Progressio is preparing to offer practical advice to thousands of small-scale farmers in Zimbabwe in a bid to help them achieve long-term food security in a rapidly changing climate.

A new information leaflet – ‘Coping with climate change’ – outlines how farmers are likely to be affected by climate change and offers guidance on how to prepare land and crops to mitigate the effects of higher temperatures, reduced rainfall, more frequent droughts and cyclones.

Small-scale agriculture in Zimbabwe has been identified as key to the nation’s long-term food security, and currently supports several million people. Recent estimates put the number of Zimbabweans requiring food aid at a staggering 7 million.

The recommendations contained in the leaflet follow detailed investigation by Progressio Zimbabwe, in partnership with local agricultural specialists, into smallholder farmers’ responses to climate change and seed saving – the practice of saving seeds and replanting them from one season to the next. The results of the investigation are published in an online report today.

The report, ‘Seed saving and climate change in Zimbabwe’, probed farming practices of 60 households in four regions and found that lack of access to seeds has been one of the main causes of long-term food insecurity for small-scale farmers and their families.

It also found that saving and reusing indigenous seeds, which are well adapted to local conditions, is a key strategy for smallholder farmers as they seek to grow enough food to eat.

“Climate change is already making life difficult for many small-scale farmers. Because they depend on farming for a living, they are vulnerable to unpredictable weather”, the leaflet warns.

The new leaflet will be distributed through Progressio’s networks on the ground, in partnership with the Zimbabwean Community Technology Development Trust (Commutec). Together, they hope to reach thousands of farmers in regions where more than 70% of the population depend on agriculture for their livelihoods.

Kevin Ndemera, Progressio’s country representative in Zimbabwe said: “We are now in the midst of a desperate food crisis, but as farmers look to feed themselves and their families in the coming year and beyond this advice will be critical. Climate change is already having noticeable effects - farmers in particular need to be forewarned and forearmed.”

Progressio has been working in Zimbabwe since the early 1990s, by placing skilled workers with local partner organisations.

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