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Zimbabwean Farmers Face Devastating Drought as El Niño Takes Hold

BEATRICE- A pall of despair hangs over vast arid land in Beatrice, a farming community just 40 kilometres outside Harare. Where once fields flourished with maize and groundnuts, only skeletal stalks and dwindling patches of green offer a stark reminder of the devastation wrought by an El Niño-induced drought.

Panashe Makufa

Farai Mawarire, a local farmer, surveys his 5-hectare plot with a heavy heart. "It should have been brimming with life by now," he says, his voice laced with resignation. Instead, the land lies cracked and dry, a testament to the rains that vanished soon after planting, leaving his crops and his livelihood withering.

Mawarire's story is not unique. Jane Chari, a 65-year-old widow caring for three grandchildren, stands amidst her withering field, tears welling up in her eyes. "I don't know where I am going to get food," she laments, "my grandchildren will die of hunger."

This harsh reality is shared by countless farmers across Zimbabwe, where the El Niño phenomenon has disrupted weather patterns, leading to widespread crop failure and jeopardizing food security for millions. The situation is particularly dire for those who rely on traditional planting methods, leaving them vulnerable to the whims of the weather.

However, a glimmer of hope emerges in the story of Gilbert Mukatyei, a farmer who has adopted smart conservation techniques. By employing water-saving methods and utilizing available irrigation resources, he has managed to mitigate the impact of the drought on his 8-hectare farm, although irrigation limitations have forced him to reduce his usual planting area. Mukatyei's example highlights the importance of adaptation and resilience in the face of a changing climate.

"We knew drought was coming so we did deep ploughing besides irrigating and other conversational methods we use here," said Mukatyei "although our hectarage was reduced due to limited groundwater to irrigate"

The situation in Zimbabwe underscores the broader challenges posed by climate extremes in Southern Africa. With millions facing food insecurity, the United Nations World Food Programme has initiated food aid programs in the most affected regions. Meanwhile, neighboring Zambia has declared a state of emergency in response to the drought's devastating impact.

As Zimbabwe grapples with the immediate consequences of this El Niño event, the long-term challenge lies in building resilience and adapting agricultural practices to a more unpredictable climate. The stories of Mawarire, Jani, and Mukatyei serve as stark reminders of the human cost of climate change and the urgent need for sustainable solutions.


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