Climate Story Jeffrey Gogo
Partnerships facilitate lasting wins for communities, as opposed to top-down implementation of externally developed projects.
A tested approach that leverages skill and resources at multiple levels, partnerships are key to driving societal priorities, particularly at a time of climate change.
Two seemingly disconnected groups – civil society, development agencies and Government who design and implement strategy on the one side, and villagers who try to understand and live with the strategy on the other – joining hands to deliver interventions that work.
This process calls upon both parties to show commitment, listen to one another and recognise the value of the other’s skill and expertise.
“The Scaling up Adaptation in Zimbabwe, with a focus on rural livelihoods” project, around which Oxfam in Zimbabwe convened civil society, smallholder farmers, Government departments and development agencies, has benefited from this multi-sectoral buy-in.
Spirited collaboration by the stakeholders proved instrumental for a fully realised project in the drought-prone districts of Buhera, Chimanimani and Chiredzi, as participants worked together to address the gradual dilapidation of irrigation infrastructure, destruction of natural resources and severe climate change risks such as drought, heavy rainfall and changing rainfall patterns.
We have on these pages in the last few weeks examined the extent of impact of the programme through first hand farmer interviews and on the ground project analysis. On the whole, farmers seem satisfied with the positive changes in production issuing from the interventions under the programme.
The four-year project started in earnest when Oxfam received a grant of $3,98 million from the Global Environment Facility through the UN Development Programme on behalf of the Government of Zimbabwe to implement it in October 2014.
It was officially launched in February 2015 by the Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate, with a view of scaling up climate change adaptation and reducing the vulnerability of rural communities, particularly women, to the impacts of climate change and extreme climate events.
While about 10,000 households – three quarters headed by women – are directly targeted by this programme, an estimated 50 000 are expected to be indirect beneficiaries.
Between November 2014 and October 2018, villagers are bent to action, in partnership with the development agencies, stepping up climate adaptation and mitigation actions such as switching to sustainable energy, reviving and climate proofing irrigation schemes and adopting drought-tolerant crops.
They are also diversifying crops and livelihoods, reclaiming wetlands, promoting soil and water conservation, improving post-harvest storage facilities as well the use of climate information. The aim is to boost production and incomes.
Villagers are involved as hands-on participants rather than mere recipients in order to guarantee sustainability beyond the project’s lifespan.
Some of the initiatives, such as the installation of biogas plants at model households in Chiredzi, should expand in usage as villagers increase their capacity to effectively marshal them for climate mitigation.
At project start, not every household had enough livestock to enable widespread use of the technology.
However, enhanced livestock production should trickle into areas of this sort in future. Particular dams and wetlands are being reclaimed for irrigation in Chimanimani, but the expertise villagers are gaining through active participation should still spread further afield to benefit more communities.
Relationships that work
In Zimbabwe, climate change is real. Temperatures have risen 0,9 degrees Celsius in the last 100 years, with droughts and floods becoming more intense and frequent. Rainfall patterns have become erratic and mid-season dry spells more common.
For smallholder farmers in rural areas, declining agricultural productivity is worsening as drought, heavy rainfall and shifting rainfall patterns increasingly stalk the countryside.
Climate change has made it imperative for different economic agents to insulate communities from the risks of an uneven cropping calendar and to protect the livelihoods of villagers.
Now, for the purposes of this installment, we shall focus on the work done at Nyanyadzi, near Mutare in eastern Zimbabwe. There, as eslewhere, Oxfam in Zimbabwe partnered SAFIRE, Departments of Irrigation, Mechanisation and Agritex, Forestry Commission, Environmental Management Agency, Chimanimani Rural District Council and local communities to climate proof the Nyanyadzi Irrigation Scheme, as a precursor to it’s resuscitation.
To build partnership for watershed management, project staff engaged all concerned stakeholders; conducted participatory risk, vulnerability and adaptation assessment; developed a shared vision; mobilised community and stakeholders for implementation; trained a community-based technical team; implemented catchment management works and conducted participatory evaluation.
Villager Johnson Mutuma, 69, gave an account of how Nyanyadzi Irrigation Scheme, which contributed to the education of most children in the area, had run down to a rain-fed scheme due to lack of coordinated supervision of water resources, silted water infrastructure and adverse climate conditions.
Thanks to the collaboration by stakeholders, Mutuma believes the community is returning back to its glory days. And after visiting the Nyanyadzi Irrigation Scheme – apparently, the flagship intervention under the Scaling up Adaptation in Zimbabwe programme, Oxfam regional director Nelly Nyangwa remarked:
“Throughout my visit to Zimbabwe, l kept on hearing the need to dialogue and put pressure on Government and business, to end injustice and poverty to enable human development, dignity and wellbeing. I got the sense that Oxfam staff are on the path, where they need to amplify the voices of the down trodden.”
Project manager, Dr Leonard Unganai attributed the realisation of objectives to the strategic partnerships on the ground.
“The partnership model that we used to rehabilitate Nyanyadzi Irrigation Scheme allowed us to leverage scarce resources to achieve huge impact,” he said.
“A quick glance of the heavy machinery supplied by the Department of Irrigation, technical support from the Department of Mechanisation in upstream watershed conservation works to climate-proof the irrigation scheme, equipment provided by the Chimanimani Rural District Council, support from the community leadership and labour provided by the community made it possible for the project to be a huge success.”
Dr Unganai continued: “Moving from here, the question is how to replicate such a model to build resilience and reduce the vulnerability of rural communities in semi-arid regions of the country facing similar challenges of dysfunctional irrigation schemes because of siltation.”
God is faithful.