By Zibusiso Moyo
CLIMATE change-induced drought is taking a toll on Lupane villagers in Matabeleland North Province.
Lupane District falls in the agricultural region four, characterised by low rainfall and high temperatures. It is an agricultural drought-prone region, from which the people of Lupane have suffered.
Compounding the situation are climate change effects. The youths in Lupane also bear the brunt of these effects.
Zimbabwean youths are the most affected as climate change is impacting negatively on employment opportunities and potential income-generating projects.
Rural youths depend on natural resources to eke out a living. They engage in brick moulding, hunting, firewood selling and subsistence farming to sustain their lives.
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 was struggling to fend for his elderly parents in 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,” Dube said.
The Gumede area village head, Mthabisi Ncube, said the situation caused by environmental degradation and climate change has led to the 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 were worried about the community’s future leaders who were now a burden, adding that youths needed help to pursue other sources of incomes and use skills for the betterment of their communities.
Ncube said it was imperative for the youths to be able to mitigate the effects of climate change to ensure 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 youths are an unlucky generation when we were at their age, we had a vast choice from. One could either choose to be a farmer and be successful at it or opt for formal employment” Ncube said.
Nozipho Mlala lamented the effects of climate change on young women, who now have to walk long distances to fetch water.
The water crisis has led to a serious human and wildlife conflict as they fight over the limited water sources. Animals destroy the few crops on the fields.
Aberson Mahlangu, who is the District Development Officer (DDO), said rural youths were adversely affected by climate change effects as they primarily depended 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, said he believed that environmental and climate change could 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,” he said.
“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.”
Phiri further noted that it was imperative to document different methods of indigenous knowledge systems that were used to conserve, adapt, and mitigate the 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 a need to raise the voices of the youth on the climate crisis.”