“Climate Change is really troubling but we have nowhere to run to.”

“… when women have equal access, ownership and control over land and other productive resources, their crop yields increase by 20 to 30 percent.”

The IRIN agency has published a challenging article on how Climate Change is forcing small farmers, primarily women, to improvise in Southern Africa, due to recurrent droughts or flooding.

The article highlights that 70% of the rural population of Zimbabwe are female, who make up 70% of farm labourers.

One farmer, Chegetai Zonke, decided to reduce her stake in what IRIN call ‘a recurrent climate change gamble’.

“I’ve abandoned tilling the bigger fields,” she told IRIN, “to avoid the risk of putting more land under crops that may fail due to lack of rain or too much rain.”

Why?

“Replanting costs money, which is scarce.”

Farmers are still trying to recover from Cyclone Dineo which struck southern Africa in mid-February, claiming hundreds of lives, devastating harvests and washing away bridges and roads.  Hunger is beginning to stalk the land.

Women, IRIN reports, “bear the greatest burden of these erratic changes in weather patterns, as they are the mainstay of agricultural production,” Leonard Unganai, a project manager with Oxfam, told the agency. “Most of the crops they grow, like maize, are badly affected by the occurrence of dry spells and heavy rains. In the end, it is women who get affected most, compromising their ability to produce for the household and the markets.”

Delmah Ndlovu, a women farmer, said the recent droughts meant women had to travel long distances to find water, giving them less time to work in their fields, reducing yields. “We’ve witnessed unprecedented loss of pastures,” she said. “Grass is dying. Even grass to thatch our houses, which we found freely in the past, is now getting scarce.”

The article highlights the fact that while women predominantly till the land, they have few land rights and it is the men who make critical decisions about what they want grown. Sharon Chipunza, a programme coordinator with Women and Land in Zimbabwe (WILZ), told IRIN, “Most women do not have authority over the land. Hence, they can’t make a decision on what to grow, where and when. The husbands decide, and most of the time they advocate for cash crops at the expense of food crops.”

What makes this assertion critical is statistics offered by the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation which claims that “when women have equal access, ownership and control over land and other productive resources, their crop yields increase by 20 to 30 percent.”

The full IRIN article may be accessed by clicking here:

 

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