The Sunday Mail
WE seem to be living in apocalyptic times.
So much death. So much destruction. And so much grief.
Over the past week, the scale of the human tragedy in two North African countries — Morocco, which has been shaken by an earthquake; and Libya, which was battered by a brutally unforgiving storm — was so surreal as to be both unbelievable and unimaginable.
By yesterday, the death toll from the earthquake in Morocco — the deadliest in more than 60 years — had risen to about 3 000.
It has also been particularly difficult in war-torn Libya, where a deluge from two burst dams, occasioned by a relentless storm, swallowed whole communities and spat them into the Mediterranean Sea, killing close to 12 000 people, while 10 000 are still missing.
But it is the frequency, regularity, intensity and scale of these incredibly tragic incidences that are an eerie and alarming foreboding of the continued fallout from climate change.
Nothing could have prepared the world for the devastation in Turkey and Syria early this year, where 50 000 people perished after an earthquake struck on February 6.
Let this sink in: Over the past three years, we have witnessed a once-in-a-lifetime global health emergency through the Covid-19 pandemic, regular droughts, storms, floods, earthquakes and wild fires, among many existential threats.
Mother Nature seems to have declared war on earthlings.
And, as the great power rivalry among the nuclear-armed United States, China and Russia intensifies, the spectre of a world war becomes ever so likely.
Matthew 24:6-8 foretells: “You will hear of wars and rumours of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.
“There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.”
Conquering the elements
Our oracles predict that this part of the world might experience below-average rains in the 2023/2024 cropping season as a result of the El Nino weather phenomenon, which might potentially cut agricultural output.
This could be catastrophic for some of our neighbours, who are already grappling shortages of mealie meal.
It would also surely test the resilience of our impressively growing agriculture sector.
If there is an area where President ED has particularly excelled in the past five years, it is definitely in agriculture, which has since been transformed into an effective engine that is now powering one of the fastest-growing economies on the continent.
This is hugely significant and symbolic, especially for a country that has been reviled and maligned for the past two decades for rightfully reclaiming its land and redistributing it to blacks, who had been violently dispossessed during colonialism.
Zimbabwe yet again stands on the brink of another record wheat harvest after putting a historic 90 192 hectares under the cereal. If output tops 400 000 tonnes, as is largely expected, Zimbabwe will have more wheat than it requires, with the possibility that it might export some of its harvest to those in need.
This imminent feat would give added meaning to the Land Reform Programme and bust the contrived myth that black people are inherently unable — incapable even — to grow food for their own sustenance, a task that was ostensibly understood to be divinely ordained for white people.
In the period when land ownership was transitioning from white to black owners, the natural decline in agricultural production associated with such a seismic shift was mischievously interpreted as a sign of the woeful incompetence of the new breed of “clueless” black farmers.
They told us that this showed the folly of the Land Reform Programme.
Zimbabwe was largely stereotyped as a forbidding example for former colonies that might entertain the idea of reclaiming their lost land.
This also insidiously fed into the narrative of the exaggerated success of white farmers, who had relocated to neighbouring Zambia. By dint of this big fat lie, we were constantly reminded that Zimbabwe’s loss was Zambia’s gain.
But, as is always the case, lies run sprints, but the truth runs marathons.
Well, the lie has come tumbling down in spectacular fashion.
It is actually Zambia that is presently struggling to provide mealie meal for its people, while Zimbabwe’s granaries are full.
It is easy to take such successes for granted.
Bishop Lazi often tells folks that if there is something that has become abundant and relatively cheap in our teapot-shaped Republic, it is food.
All manner of eateries are mushrooming all over the place.
This is not fortuitous.
It is the result of wise leadership and hard work. Zimbabwe has invested a lot of effort and resources into reclaiming its status as a breadbasket.
The industry of the late Cde Perrance Shiri (may his revolutionary soul rest in peace) cannot be easily forgotten.
As Minister of Agriculture, he famously ditched the suit for the work suit and would spend his time in the fields with farmers.
His successor, Cde Anxious Masuka, who was spared the rigours of political campaigns by the President in the recent elections, is diligently following in the same giant footprints.
The task he has been given is huge, but he seems equal to it.
Every other month, huge centre pivots are being erected across the country, as we close in on the target to put 350 000 hectares under irrigation, which would insulate our agriculture from the vagaries of climate change.
Just last week, there were reports that the 131-hectare Bambanani Irrigation Scheme in Mangwe district, Matabeleland South, which has been idle for the past 15 years, will be brought back to life before the beginning of the summer cropping season.
By the way, the land under irrigation in the province has doubled in the past five years.
Such schemes are profoundly changing lives and livelihoods in rural communities by ensuring food security, boosting incomes and lifting many people out of poverty. If only our keyboard warriors — who spend most of their time being silly, cynical and sceptical on social media — would take time to drive around to see the changing face of our rural areas. They will surely be humbled.
Impressive houses powered by solar and adorned with well-manicured lawns watered by boreholes are sprouting in the countryside.
They could rival or even eclipse any other found in the city.
These are signs of a silent revolution in our rural areas.
Preparing for a rainy day
But, as we assiduously work to wean our farmers from rain-fed agriculture, we have already started preparing to counteract the impact of a possible El Nino-affected cropping season.
By allowing private players to import maize, we are pre-emptively giving ourselves room to stock up on supplies that might be needed during the lean season.
Added to conservation farming methods such as Pfumvudza/Intwasa, the switch to traditional grains will also help.
Notwithstanding the impact of debilitating sanctions, and without any meaningful support from outside, we have shown the world that we are an unconquerable people of consequence, whose spirit cannot be repressed because of our sheer indomitable willpower.
During a high-level Government retreat on Thursday, ED said something profound that defines us as a people.
“As we do so, I exhort us to take pride in that we are Zimbabweans, a unique and resilient people, descendants of the Great Munhumutapa.
“Although we are under the albatross of the heinous illegal sanctions, this must never limit us. We must have a mentality that this is normal and achieve even greater success. The innovation and ingenuity that has seen us realise unprecedented results, across all sectors, should be scaled up,” he said.
This is why, despite the vicissitudes of the past five years (Cyclone Idai, droughts and sanctions, among others) — we have managed to balance our budget, launch an ambitious infrastructure development programme like no other, achieve food security and grow our economy into the fastest growing in the region.
Rest assured, whatever challenges lie ahead, we will overcome.