By Zibusiso Moyo
Climate change induced drought is taking toll on Lupane villagers in Matabeleland North Province.
Lupane District falls in the agricultural region 4 characterised by little rainfall, and severe heat, thus leading to droughts that have affected people of Lupane over the years. Youths in Lupane are not spared from climate change effects and bear the brunt of its effects.
Zimbabwean youth are the most hard hit as active members of the community who depend on paid employment and other income generating activities.
Rural youths are the most affected as they depend on natural resources to eke out a living. They engage in brick moulding, hunting, firewood selling and subsistence farming to sustain their lives, however they have found it hard to continue their operations as climate change has brought about changes that are negatively affecting their livelihoods.
Trades such as selling firewood contribute to the negative impact on the environment and further exacerbating negative climatic conditions. Lupane is rich in timber, but the rate of deforestation is worrying as timber poaching is rampant.
One youth from Menyezwa Ward, Nkosikhona Dube said he is struggling to fend for his elderly parents through a depressed economic environment. “We rely mostly on communal farming and now with no rains we do not get anything when harvest time comes, things have become complicated for us, the crops we would have planted just wilt and die because of the scorching sun leading to us harvesting nothing at all” said Dube.
The Gumede area Village head Mthabisi Ncube said the situation caused by environment degradation and climate change has led to suffering of youths economically and socially leading to them engaging in crime and social ills such as poaching, drug abuse and gambling. He said parents are worried about future leaders who are now a community burden, adding that youths need to be helped to pursue other avenues as some are equipped with skills that may change the community for the better. He noted that it is imperative for youths to have capacity to address negative effects of climate change to mitigate its threats for sustainable development and improved quality of life in the region
“The prevailing situation has changed our traditional ways and systems of living particularly our young people who are facing a grim future, that will leave them wallowing in dire poverty. These youth are an unlucky generation when we were at their age, we had a vast choice one could either choose to be a farmer and be successful or opt for formal employment” said Ncube.
One young woman Mrs Nozipho Mlala lamented how climate change has particularly affected young women. This includes shortage of water in the area and having to walk long distances in search of it. Water crisis has led to serious human and wildlife conflict as people and wild animals compete for limited water sources or trespass in fields of subsistence farmers to eat the few surviving crops, also putting the lives of villagers at risk.
Mr Aberson Mahlangu who is the District Development Officer (DDO) said rural youths are adversely affected by climate change effects as they primarily depend on agriculture.
“ Adverse weather conditions lead to poor harvests, socio economic and environmental shocks increasing vulnerability of the youth and increasing levels of poverty. I would like to encourage youths to adapt and mitigate climate change by planting heat resistant crops, venture into various projects, and they can apply for seed funding that my office can support.”
Dr Keith Phiri, a Lupane state university lecturer who is an expert on climate change says he believes that environmental and climate change can be combated by young people,
“Nutrition gardens and tree nurseries may be established and youths can be taught on effects and opportunities that may be tapped from mainstreaming climate change in rural development initiatives. Gardens will dissuade young people from relying on seasonal rains to sustain their livelihoods. Alternative sources of livelihoods should also be explored that complement rain fed agriculture. This may be achieved with help from well-wishers and other organisations who can introduce strategies like smart agriculture, planting of dry resistant crops and small livestock rearing.”
He further noted that it is imperative to document different methods of indigenous knowledge systems that were used to conserve, adapt, and mitigate effects of weather induced disasters. “Climate change is here. As its impact intensifies over time, it is the children and young people of today who will face the worst effects. Therefore, there is need to raise the voices of the youth on the climate crisis”