Greener Journal of Environment Management and Public Safety Vol. 3 (1), pp. 009-020, February 2014.
ISSN: 2354-2276 © 2011 Greener Journals
Manuscript Number: 042214197
An Assessment of Community Vulnerability to Climate Change in the Lupane District of Matabeleland North, Zimbabwe
Thomas P. Z. Mpofu
Senior Lecturer, Department of Geography and Environmental Studies,
Zimbabwe Open University.
Email: tpz.zuluboy @ gmail. com, Mobile - 263 0775 509 623
Although climate change models predict harsher weather conditions along the Zambezi Basin, no known micro-level assessment has been carried out on the Zimbabwe side of the Basin, including in Lupane District. Lupane is one of the Matabeleland North districts of Zimbabwe that lie within the mid-Zambezi River Basin. The purpose of this study, therefore, was to assess the vulnerability of rural communities to climate change in the Lupane District. The specific objectives of the study were to assess the following: the community understanding of climate change; its farming systems and related support services; and its food and livelihood security. It is hoped that a clearer understanding of the community agricultural production systems could contribute towards the development and infusion of technologies that enhance and stabilize the community livelihoods. The study utilized existing secondary data on the District’s agricultural production systems and its agro-ecological profile. Using structured questionnaires, primary data on the community understanding of climate change; farming systems and their performance; and current food security practices; was then collected from 125 randomly selected households. Other key sources of primary data were agricultural experts resident in the District. Focused group discussions were held with opinion leaders such as traditional leaders, school headmasters, business people and leaders of farmer associations. The major findings of the study are that Lupane communities have a fair understanding of climate change and its disruptive effect on their livelihoods. They reported that there was a general decrease in average annual rainfall; decrease in crop yields over the years; and increased food insecurity within their community. This made it difficult for them to achieve food self-sufficiency as they depended on rain-fed agriculture. Their livestock numbers were also decreasing due to regular droughts. As an adaptive strategy, the study found that the Lupane communities often hedged against climate change by increasing the planted areas or encroaching onto marginal and protected lands; bridged the food insecurity gap by engaging in off-farm employment; and diversified their livelihoods by gathering firewood and collecting wild fruits, vegetables and caterpillars, among other harvests. These were for own use as well as for sale. The study also noted the significant contribution of remittances from relatives in urban areas, including South Africa. Thus, the study concluded that the livelihoods of rural communities in Lupane District have become vulnerable and insecure as climate change intensifies. On this basis, the study recommends that Government, in partnership with NGOs and the private sector, should develop and promote robust agricultural systems that increase and stabilize crop yields among these and other communities that are vulnerable to climate.
Keywords: climate change, vulnerability, production systems, community livelihoods, food security, marginal lands.