The Sunday Mail
The journey began at the turn of the millennium when Zimbabwe embarked on its land reform programme, a transformative enduring initiative that resulted in the West imposing sanctions on the country.
It has been two long decades since 12,1 million hectares of land ― about 31 percent of the prime agricultural land ― was redistributed from about 3 500 white former commercial farmers to over 300 000 households.
The rolling out of the agrarian reform empowered thousnds of citizens and created jobs.
Yet more could have been achieved had it not been for the intermittent rainfall patterns that have been frustrating the empowered black farmers who only have land, passion and limited resources.
As a result, this is slowing down Zimbabwe’s economic growth.
Seventy percent of the country’s population relies on farming for their livelihoods and therefore agriculture remains the backbone of the country’s economy.
It is also from this sector that Zimbabwe gets the bulk of its raw materials and export earnings.
But year in and year out, climate change is taking a toll on the country’s agricultural sector.
On the other hand, most Zimbabwean farmers have clung to rainfed agriculture, with their yields shrinking during seasons that receive below normal rainfall.
We need to address the perennial problem through climate proofing the sector.
The time is now.
Global warming is certainly here to stay, and blaming El Nina or La Nina or any other weather phenomenon is not going to water our fields.
Only well-calculated moves will do that.
We can never satisfy our thirst by talking about how low our dam levels are.
Instead, our strategy in the agricultural sector should revolve around the more than 10 000 dams in the country, including Lake Kariba, the world’s biggest dam based on water storage capacity, as well as the recently completed Tugwi-Mukosi Dam.
Rainfed agriculture should therefore be a bonus, not our absolute strategy.
Following a poor domestic harvest which fell to 800 000 tonnes during the 2018/19 farming season, Zimbabwe needs to import close to a million tonnes of maize to cover the shortfall.
The country is also producing inadequate wheat supplies.
This points to a pertinent problem with regards to the country’s food production processes.
That problem is embedded in our water management systems as the bulk of the rainfall we receive ends up in the Indian Ocean before it gives us enough economic benefits.
Therefore, the country’s water harvesting strategy leaves a lot to be desired.
Most rivers in Zimbabwe retain water only during the wet months while only the Zambezi retains a significant dry weather flow.
In the face of the increasing effects of climate change, there is no justification for maintaining our archaic ways of water harvesting and rain-fed agriculture when the rest of the world has moved on to more efficient systems that make every drop count.
As slain US president John Kennedy once said: “Our problems are man-made and can be solved by man.”
Indeed, climate change is man-made and it will take our efforts to circumvent the problem.
Zimbabwe could take a leaf from Israel, a country that is 60 percent desert but has become a water superpower.
Through efficient water management systems, the country is a major exporter of fresh produce and flowers despite the fact that its geography is naturally unconducive for agriculture.
Compared to Israel’s Arava Desert which receives about an inch of rain a year, Zimbabwe is actually an oasis. Therefore there are no excuses for Zimbabwe’s agricultural sectors not flourishing all year round.
In fact, we have absolutely no excuse for not growing enough maize and wheat to feed the nation.