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The East African : Jan 14th 2017
26 OUTLOOK The EastAfrican JANUARY 14-20,2017 DEVELOPMENT Zimbabwe a case study in resilience to climate change It is a good place to highlight the need to develop people’s ≥esistance to “shocks” By TAWANDA MAJONI IRIN the sun rises. But rather than governments and aid agencies swinging into belated — often chaotic — action after they’ve struck, the smarter move is to strengthen communities by building their resistance ahead of time. It’s cheaper, faster, and devolves C more control to the affected communities. But while resilience has long been a buzzword among aid agencies and governments alike, it’s difficult to gauge yet how effective the measures have been. Zimbabwe is a good place both to highlight the need to develop people’s resistance to “shocks” and to illustrate how difficult it is to put that idea into practice. Agriculture is a key sector of the economy. It employs 60-70 per cent of the population, contributes to about 40 per cent of total export earnings, and, in a good year, covers the country’s cereal needs. But Zimbabwean agriculture is mostly rain-fed, and therefore vulnerable to climate change-induced drought. An El Niño event in 2015 has produced two consecutive seasons of failed rains. The cumulative result is that more than four million people are in need of food aid over the next three months, until the 2017 harvest comes in. And the forecast is for worse weather to come. A 2013 study predicted that between now and 2080, Zimbabwe will suffer steeply reduced rainfall, which will hit production of drought-sensitive maize, further denting food security. The trend has been clear for more than a decade. But the government A woman and her children fetch water in Luveve on the outskirts of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. The country is suffering from a severe drought that has ravaged the southern African region. Picture: File and aid partners seem to have made the short-term calculation that the next season will be better, preferring to resort to emergency relief when disaster strikes than to spend on longer-term solutions. For the government, the prima- ry reason is it’s broke. Last year, it struggled to pay even public sector teachers and nurses. “Zimbabwe has for more than a decade faced numerous economic, environmental, and political pressures that have probably proved to be too much for the government to effectively promote resilience,” said climate researcher Leonard Unganai. “It is aware that it has to do some- thing, but the challenges could have overwhelmed it.” In almost every year out of the past Building the resilience of communities helps them to anticipate, absorb, accommodate, and recover from crises and disasters,” David Phiri, Southern Africa co-ordinator for the FAO 15, Zimbabwe has been forced to import grain. More than 200,000 tonnes of maize was imported in 2016. That’s well short of the 1.7 million tonnes the country actually needed, but seemingly all the cash-strapped government could afford. The burden has therefore fallen on its aid partners. Zimbabwe received $177.7 million in aid funding in 2016, but that represents only roughly 50 per cent of the overall appeal. Clearly, charity has its limits. “Traditional approaches to hu- manitarian and development assistance have not been very successful in minimising the impacts of disasters on communities,” said UN Development Programme resident representative Bishow Parajuli. What are needed are interventions that “enhance communities’ and individuals’ preparedness and resilience,” he said at last year’s launch of the Zimbabwe Resilience Building Fund (ZRBF). “Building the resilience of com- munities helps them to be prepared to anticipate, absorb, accommodate, or recover from crises and disasters in a timely, efficient, and sustainable manner,” said David Phiri, Southern Africa co-ordinator for the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation. Interventions Resilience building is not a new phenomenon. It’s a fashionable phrase included in just about every humanitarian and development document. It has institutional support expressed through the 2005-2015 Hyogo Framework of Action, and its suc- Sudan asks T≥ump to ≥econside≥ policies, lift sanctions A SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT Xinhua THE SUDANESE government said last week that the new US government under President-elect Donald Trump should reconsider policies toward the country. “We expect a breakthrough in the Sudanese- American relationship in the era of President Trump, and we hope the new American administration will reconsider the American policy towards Sudan,” said Kamal-Eddin Ismail, Sudan’s State Minister for Foreign Affairs, in a statement. He also reiterated Sudan’s readiness to co-op- erate with the new US administration on counter-terrorism and human trafficking. On the issue of the economic embargo, the minister ex- pressed hope that the two countries will reach an understanding. “There should be great efforts to reach an understanding with Washington to lift the economic embargo from Sudan in the coming period,” he said. Mr Ismail also criticised President Barack Obama for renewing the US economic sanctions on Sudan. “We expected the economic sanctions not to be renewed, but unfortunately they were,” he said. Terrorism sponsor The United States started imposing sanctions on Sudan in 1997 and has since been listing it as one of the countries sponsoring terrorism. Since then, Washington has been renewing its sanctions on Sudan due to the continuing war in Dar- fur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan regions, in addition to a number of outstanding issues between Sudan and South Sudan such as the territorial dispute over the oil-rich Abyei area. In February 2015, however, the US announced its decision to loosen sanctions on Sudan by allowing in exports of personal communications hardware and software including smartphones and laptops, in a move to help the people of Sudan integrate into the global digital community. Sudan’s losses due to the US sanctions report- edly amount to more than $4 billion annually. Moreover, Sudan has been witnessing an es- calating economic crisis since the secession of South Sudan in 2011, as the country has lost about 70 per cent of its oil revenues and 50 per cent of government revenues. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. The country said it was ready to co-operate with the Trump administration. Pic: File limate change-induced disasters will keep on coming, as sure as EL NINO DISASTER The United Nations estimates that 4.1 million people in Zimbabwe are in need of aid following a severe drought, exacerbated by El Nino — a warming of sea surface temperatures in the Pacific that can lead to scorching weather in East and Southern Africa. The water situation is particularly critical in the south of the country where water tables are fast receding. Most rivers, dams and wells, have dried up. The most drought-affected parts of the country of 14.2 million people are Masvingo, Matabeleland North and South and the Midlands, according to British charity Oxfam. cessor, the Sendai Framework. But while the goals of addressing the underlying vulnerabilities that lead to humanitarian crisis are laudable, it has proved difficult to fully harness as an organising principle. Its grassroots focus means it re- quires time-consuming local consultations; needs astute analysis as to why people are at risk; and then inter-agency collaboration to help deliver the appropriate interventions. This is more bespoke than the usual cookie-cutter approach to aid. “Many donors traditionally fund either emergency or development initiatives, meaning that resilience… tends to be underfunded,” said Mr Phiri, adding, “However, donor interest is now slowly building towards supporting resilience building projects.” There is indeed a raft of initiatives under way in Zimbabwe. Development agencies jointly launched the ZRBF in May in conjunction with the government and with support from the European Union and the UK Department for International Development. It includes a multi-donor fund to enable partners to improve the adaptive, absorptive, and transformative capacities of communities, and a disaster-risk financing mechanism to promote reliable prediction and management of climate-induced shocks. It also entails identifying vulner- able communities to target with the appropriate resilience measures. Other initiatives include the 2016- 20 Zimbabwe UN Development Assistance Framework, which includes a resilience-building component to help strengthen household food and nutrition security. USAid is also involved in devel- opment and food assistance programmes worth $100 million over the next five years aimed at addressing the underlying causes of food insecurity and malnutrition. WFP is also training farmers in climate change adaptation, including encouraging the adoption of small grains and short-season varieties, and the FAO is scaling up its irrigation support programme and its climate-smart agriculture programmes. None of these schemes is a magic bullet. One obvious constraint with such interventions is that they reach only a limited number of communities because of funding and resource constraints.
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