Editorial Comment: Irrigation critical for national food security

The continued dry spell in various parts of the country, among them Masvingo, Matabeleland North and South is causing anxiety to farmers who understand very well that it will affect their crop.

Over-reliance on rain-fed agriculture means the majority of farmers in the central and southern parts of Zimbabwe will be exposed to the vagaries of nature.

They will need food assistance and this comes at a cost to the national fiscus. Zimbabweans have participated at various local, regional and international meetings which have highlighted the adverse impact of climate change on agriculture.

Research studies have pointed out the severe impact of climate change on agriculture. Farmers are hardest hit by the changes. Rainfall patterns are no longer predictable and it’s no longer easy for smallholder farmers to know exactly when to plant their crops.

Evidence of climate change in Zimbabwe is visible and signals the burden of climate change risks which are now being felt more by the poor. Zimbabwe is now experiencing an unprecedented series of extreme weather events which have serious implications on food security and the economy as a whole. The frequency of droughts and floods is increasing.

The 2014-15 cropping season has seen a mixture of intensive rains interposed with dry spells. Local researchers have told us that climate data now shows that changes in temperature and weather patterns are affecting the frequency and severity of rainfall, droughts, floods, access to water and the use of land.

Year in, year out, we are seeing these changes and this calls for additional interventions to be adopted to enable farmers to maintain their crop production levels.

These also include the need to strengthen agricultural extension services to promote the sowing of crop varieties suitable to various agro-ecological regions in the country.

Much more than anything else is the need to promote irrigation so that water needs for cropping from year to year for most areas of the country that receive too little rainfall during the growing season are met to support economical crop growth.

Irrigation can be an insurance against occasional drought and even in areas where rainfall is plentiful, irrigation can bring benefits by reducing the risk of crop failure.

Most parts of Masvingo, Matabeleland North and South received some heavy rains late last year and the rains went unharnessed. If Zimbabwe invests more in irrigation technology, it can significantly cushion itself against the adverse effects of drought and enhance its food security position.

Failure to invest in irrigation technologies comes at a huge cost to the national fiscus in terms of food aid support and other lost income opportunities for the country. Zimbabwe simply needs to a create momentum for the promotion of irrigation technologies as a practical step to mitigating the impact of climate change on smallholder farmers. Given the risks associated with climate change, promoting adaptation technologies must be central to all efforts that aim to reduce the vulnerability of smallholder farmers to adverse effects of climate change.

Pin It