Zimbabwe : El Nino threatening hunger crisis

El Niño Looms Large, Threatening Hunger Crisis in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe braces for a potential hunger crisis as the specter of El Niño, a cyclical weather phenomenon known for causing droughts in Southern Africa, strengthens in the Pacific Ocean. Experts warn that erratic rainfall patterns and scorching temperatures associated with El Niño could devastate agricultural yields, pushing millions towards food insecurity.

The country is already grappling with the lingering effects of previous droughts and economic turmoil. A 2023 report by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimated that over 3 million Zimbabweans currently face food insecurity. El Niño’s arrival threatens to exacerbate this vulnerability, particularly for small-scale farmers who depend on rain-fed agriculture.

« El Niño events are notorious for disrupting agricultural seasons in Southern Africa, » says Dr. Tendai Murefu, a climate scientist at the University of Zimbabwe. « Reduced rainfall and higher temperatures can lead to crop failure, impacting food availability and driving up food prices. »

The Zimbabwean government has acknowledged the threat. The Ministry of Agriculture is urging farmers to adopt drought-resistant crops and implement water conservation techniques. Additionally, contingency plans are being formulated to provide food assistance to the most vulnerable populations if the situation deteriorates.

However, concerns remain about the government’s capacity to effectively respond. Years of economic hardship have hampered its ability to invest in essential infrastructure like irrigation systems. Additionally, political instability casts a shadow over the effectiveness of any potential aid programs.

International organizations are also preparing for a potential crisis. The World Food Programme (WFP) is scaling up its operations in Zimbabwe, pre-positioning food stocks and strengthening its capacity to deliver assistance to remote areas.

« Early action is crucial to avert a humanitarian disaster, » emphasizes Mr. Charles Lwanga, WFP Country Director for Zimbabwe. « We are working closely with the government and other stakeholders to ensure that the most vulnerable receive the support they need. »

The looming El Niño event serves as a stark reminder of Zimbabwe’s vulnerability to climate change. While immediate interventions are necessary to address the current threat, long-term investments in climate-resilient agriculture and social safety nets are crucial to safeguard the country’s food security in the face of a changing climate.

Keneth Ononga

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