Government’s response to drought commendable

03 Mar, 2024 - 00:03 0 Views
Government’s response to drought commendable

The Sunday Mail

“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” — Epictetus.

This statement by the Greek Stoic philosopher will ring true for as long as humanity is in existence.

There are many things which happen that are truly beyond human control, or even comprehension.

With Zimbabwe’s wet season commencing rather late, towards the end of December, and coming to an abrupt halt in early January, the spectre of drought is upon us.

In recent years, we have seen increasing frequency in extreme weather patterns due to global warming and the El Niño phenomenon.

But even before global warming and El Niño were as big an issue as they are today, droughts and other extreme weather patterns were a fact of life.

In fact, Zimbabwe’s worst drought on record occurred in the 1991/1992 season.

That drought is estimated to have directly affected five million people through serious food insecurity and water shortages.

So, it is not unreasonable to expect that a drought will occur at some point.

And the worsening of global warming in recent decades could likely result in an increase in the number of
such extreme weather events going forward.

For instance, the World Bank Group’s Climate Change Knowledge Portal has predicted the annual likelihood of Zimbabwe encountering severe drought increasing by 21 percent in 2040 to 2059, and by 47 percent in 2080 to 2099, compared to the baseline period of the 1986 to 2005 scenario.

Nonetheless, the country’s response to such complex natural disasters has been commendable.

The Government’s Drought Relief Programme, in particular, with regard to the 1992 drought, was effective in preventing famine and protecting livelihoods.

An analysis carried in a paper that was published in the September 2006 issue of the “Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management”, titled “Zimbabwe’s Drought Relief Programme in the 1990s: A Re-Assessment Using Nationwide Household Survey Data”, showed that the country’s drought relief “was effective in supporting drought-affected smallholders during the 1990s”.

Commendably, as Zimbabwe stares at another drought, the authorities have taken early action to protect the livelihoods of society’s vulnerable during the peak hunger period.

The peak hunger period is between January and March.

The Government has set aside an initial $44 billion for the provision of food for around three million people under the Food Deficit Mitigation Programme.

The initial three million beneficiaries are people considered food-insecure, and among the most vulnerable.

Under the initiative, at least 71 500 tonnes of cereals — maize, sorghum and millet — will be distributed to all the targeted 63 rural districts.

According to estimates provided by the Zimbabwe Livelihood Assessment Committee, around 2,7 million people were in need of food assistance during this initial phase.

Conceivably, this figure could spike as we get deeper into the year, thereby requiring the authorities to source more finances.

Although the 2024 National Budget did not make explicit fiscal budget allocations towards an emergency response to the 2023/2024 El Niño weather pattern and the resultant drought, Treasury will make the necessary adjustments.

A key element in effective drought assistance is that it should be focused on being responsive, because drought situations tend to evolve in unpredictable ways.

The Food Deficit Mitigation Programme aside, the Government has been implementing long-term projects aimed at easing drought situations, for example, the construction of the US$1,1 billion impact dams across the country, in line with the Second Republic’s vision to transform Zimbabwe into an upper middle-income economy by 2030.

The massive water infrastructure projects dovetail with the National Development Strategy 1 goals of effective provision of potable water and boosting of the country’s irrigation systems.

We commend the Government for stepping in to rescue the situation for those in need. We urge the private sector to also step in to help mitigate the impact of El Niño.

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