Climate change adaptation by Chivi farmers

Elinah Nciizah


Climate change is posing almost insunnountable challenges in the contemporary world, making it difficult for the world’s poorest people to move out of poverty amongst other issues. It alters rainfall patterns, amplifies drought cycles, increases the frequency of severe weather conditions and increases agricultural pests and diseases. The African continent, in particular, is vulnerable to climate change impacts as attributed to very high levels of poverty and low adaptive capacities. Over the past few decades in Zimbabwe, there have been increasingly hot and fewer cold days, and the timing and amount of rainfall received have become uncertain. The erratic rainfall patterns have serious adverse effects for agricultural production, specifically when farmers are rainfall dependent, with significant consequences on rural livelihoods. Adaptation and coping measures thus become extremely significant for small-scale farmers to better face extreme weather conditions and associated climatic variations. In this context, this chapter focuses on the everyday lives of small-scale farmers in Ngundu (in Chivi District) as they seek to adapt to climate change.


Numerous studies have been carried out to show the negative repercussions of climate change for rural livelihoods, including in relation to both crop and livestock production (Moussa and Amadou 2006; Jain 2006; Hassan and Nhcmachcna 2008; Molua and Lambi 2006; Mano and Nhcmachcna 2006). For this reason, coping and adaptation measures and strategies become critical. While coping seeks to minimise adverse effects over the short term using available resources, adaptation involves increasing local capacity over the longer term in the anticipation and hope of making rural communities more resilient to climate change (Wisner et al. 2003), thereby ensuring sustainable livelihoods. Depending on the presence of enabling conditions, this might entail adjustments in agricultural norms, practices, resources and technologies.

However, adaptation to climate change by small-scale farmers is a two-step process which requires that farmers perceive and frame climate change as a

Climate change adaptation by Chivi farmers 51 problem in the first place and respond to climate changes in and through adaptation thereafter (Dcrcssa ct al. 2011). Perception entails a cognitive understanding of the problem often based on lived experiences and interpretations of these experiences, over time (Simba ct al. 2012). As a precondition, then, the first step configures and enables adaptation to occur via the (often, culturally framed) perceptions of farmers as they go about their historically generated everyday lives. Studies have been conducted on farmers’ perceptions of climate change at country level (Lciserowitz 2007) and at local level in developed countries, including in Africa (Gbctibouo 2009). However, recognition of climate change does not necessarily lead to the emergence of adaptation strategics, as there may be an absence of enabling conditions as well as of adaptation willingness and capacity.

While there arc global and national level climate change adaptation policies and programmes in place, adaptation also takes place at local levels, amongst farming communities. Adaptation, if suitably developed with local circumstances in mind, is the best means of addressing climate change in order to reduce the vulnerability of livelihoods dependent in large part on rain-fed agriculture (Kane and Shogren 2000; Smit and Pilifosova 2001). In this regard, local repertoires of adaptation to climatic conditions have existed for some time. In Asia, for instance, farmers have historically observed a number of practices to adapt to climate variability, such as intercropping, agroforcstry and the development of new seed varieties. As well, farmers in Peru have been using an ancient irrigation and drainage system called “waru", or raised field agriculture, which makes it possible to bring into production the low lying, Hood prone and poorly drained lands found all over the Altiplano (UNFCCC 2007). Shanahan ct al. (2013) bring to the fore a range of strategics of small-scale farmers in different parts of Africa. These include the use of more drought tolerant and early maturing crops, the use of renewable energy, conserving and restoring vegetation in degraded and mountainous areas, reducing overall livestock numbers through sale or slaughter, cross breeding livestock or acquiring smaller livestock like sheep or goats, adopting “traditional” methods to conserve forests and using community-based management programmes for forests. Similar studies have been conducted in Zimbabwe, notably by Bhatasara (2015).

Research methods

In order to understand the effects of climate change on small-scale farmers in Zimbabwe and to examine adaptive activities in their daily lives, the study focused on a local communal area situated in Chivi district (Masvingo Province) commonly known as Ngundu (Ward 25), which comprises 39 villages with approximately 2,500 households. The almost total reliance of Ngundu farmers on rain-fed agriculture make them very susceptible to the vagaries of climate change. Three villages (Pcdzisai 1, Guti and Nduna 1), with about 360 households, were chosen as the case study on a non-random basis.

The study was conducted from 2015 to 2017 and was primarily qualitative in character, which enabled me to understand Ngundu culture, the day-to-day agricultural practices of the farmers, the social and political contexts within which they live, and the problems which they face. The study made use of questionnaires (with household heads), which covered 12 per cent of the households from each of the three villages, selected randomly: 45.2 per cent were male headed, 40.5 per cent were de facto female headed and 14.3 per cent were de jure female headed. I also used key informant in-depth interviews to obtain an understanding of the problems faced by Ngundu farmers from multiple perspectives, including the District Administrator, local councillor, village heads and the local chief. To give the study historical depth, life histories were conducted with 12 elderly people residing in Ngundu for over 50 years, comprising six females and six males. I carried out two focus group discussions in each of the three villages and, additionally, I had numerous informal interviews (conversations) with people whom I met as I carried out my research, especially in the fields as I carried out transect walks. These free-flowing and impromptu conversations facilitated my familiarisation with local agricultural conditions and allowed me to observe the everyday adaptation activities as they were being pursued and implemented by Ngundu farmers.

Livelihoods and climate change in Ngundu

Ngundu people’s livelihoods arc divided into two modes, namely, on-farm activities which arc mainly agricultural activities and off-farm activities. The agricultural activities consist of crop production (mainly, not only maize but also sorghum and other small grains, ground nuts and Bambara nuts, and tomatoes and vegetables), as well as livestock production. Typically, in an average year, about three-quarters of households in the three villages produce maize exclusively for consumption without any surplus for sales. The volume produced though varies considerably, depending significantly on rainfall patterns. Just over half of the households have cattle (with a maximum household holding of ten beasts), and greater percentages keep goats and chickens. However, climate change has led to recent losses of cattle because of deficiencies in grazing lands. As an often-desperate strategy to diversify livelihoods, Ngundu households practice off-farm activities which include selling at flea markets (vegetables and fruits), cross-border trading, migrant labour, fencing, pillar making and sculpture making. Those with household members employed outside Ngundu, as in the case of many de facto female-headed households, receive remittances, and these households tend to be better off.

Most Ngundu households (over 80 per cent) arc fully cognisant of climate change taking place locally, but the elderly arc sceptical of it insofar as it is considered to be a corporeal phenomenon. Although a significant number of villagers had difficulties in articulating an abstract conceptualisation of what climate change entails, their locally based everyday experiences and everyday perceptions (in the past and present) enabled them to detect that climate-related phenomena were undergoing meaningful changes as manifested in livelihood possibilities. Many villagers were concerned about what was taking place with

Climate change adaptation by Chivi farmers 53 regard to the rainy season, which had become very unpredictable. The late onsets of rainfall and the early cessation of rains have confused farmers to the extent that they no longer know when the planting season begins, thereby distorting their agricultural calendar (which under normal circumstances should begin in midOctober) and affecting crop yields. As one farmer noted: “We no longer receive rainfall during the period we used to. The rains are now coming very late. Rains might even begin in January”. In this sense, rainfall uncertainty has become the new normal.

Temperature changes arc also noticeable by Ngundu farmers, with over 80 per cent speaking about more intense heat and increased extremes in temperature since the early 2000s, with one farmer saying that “[i]t appears the sun is now very close to us”. More than 50 per cent also detected that the winter months had become shorter. However, rainfall and not temperature changes were perceived as more crucial when it came to prospects for agricultural activities. According to one villager: “If it gets hot it docs not matter as long as it will certainly rain. What we want is rainfall”. One of the elderly Ngundu residents thus highlighted:

People arc now affected by false alarms being brought about by climate change. People are planting at the wrong time, cither they plant early or late which is triggered by early rainfall which make people think that the rains have come only to realise that the rains will not return. At times the case is actually the opposite; you plant and there is a continuation of rains and the seeds rot before they germinate.

Importantly, another local farmer spoke of the likelihood of a growing shift away from maize production: “Maize production is no longer conducive. We arc now getting very low yields due to low rainfall”. The change in rainfall patterns, even in years not considered as droughts in terms of total rainfall, makes it difficult to grow maize to the reaping stage, which explains why there is a trend towards the growing of the more drought-resident crop of rapoko.

In the past, when crop and livestock production was more viable, nature seemed to speak to Ngundu farmers in a manner which enhanced their agricultural activities. One farmer, Mr. Madzivire, argued that: “We would sec migratory birds, then we would know it will start raining before long. Currently we no longer see them. They last came in the 1990s”. Indeed, the migration patterns of birds arc known to be conditioned by seasonal rainfall. In the event of a drought, migration is disrupted and the presence of birds decreases in Ngundu. Besides the absence of migratory birds symbolising drought, Mr. Madzivire referred to other signs of rain which no longer appear: “Chirongwe Mountain would show a burning flame at its top signalling that the rains are coming; the rains would then put out the flame. It docs that now once in a while but only few people can see it, most people do not see the flame”. This quote is of some significance because, in local culture (particularly amongst the elderly residents), certain mountains arc considered as sacred sites associated with the presence of the ancestral spirits, who guide Ngundu farmers in their daily lives.

Culture and climate change

Cultural “traditions” more broadly continue to be practised in Ngundu amongst older members, and these arc embodied in local understandings of climate change and agricultural crisis. For instance, Kurova guva is a way of appeasing the dead, with the living helping to send the spirits of the dead ones to the ancestral world. At such ceremonies, cows arc slaughtered and beer is brewed by the elderly women of the village. By sending the spirits away in this manner, the dead (ancestral spirits) and the living would be in communication with each other and, by being so honoured, the ancestral spirits would protect the living from all calamities. One such calamity is climate change. As Mr. Tobaiwa (an elderly man) claimed:

Maybe our ancestors arc angry with us and they arc punishing us by changing the seasons and giving us little rainfall. I am not saying that there were no droughts way back; they were there but we would have mutoro [rain calling ceremonies] and rains would come. Right now since the 1992 drought, things have not been the same. Even if we appease our ancestors, rains still do not come.

Villagers also practise, normally in February, what is termed mutoro or mukw-erera. The ceremony entails the making of beer by elderly women, using rukweza (millet) which is collected from villagers with every household contributing a certain amount. The villagers gather at the house of the village head and pray to the ancestors, including for good rains for the next rainy season. As the local chief said in an interview, if it fails to rain at the end of the year, it is believed that the ancestors are angry because the practice would not have been carried out properly and that the chief is responsible for this. The elderly women believe that the chief should continue to conduct mutoro up until the rain comes. The anger of ancestors may arise for other reasons as well. According to one elderly man: “Outsiders who come and settle here, for instance, like the Shangane arc causing poor rainfall as they would have been involved in certain practices that the ancestors are against, which causes a bad omen on us”. From the perspective of the ancestors, these practices fell outside the realm of what was permissible. To counteract the displeasure of the ancestors and to restore the rain, it would be necessary to brew beer, slaughter cattle or goats and perform a hira (a “traditional” ceremony) as a way of appeasement. Staunch proponents of this practice pursue it in lieu of a strategy of adaptation to climate change, as reconnecting with the ancestors will lead to sufficient rain and bountiful harvests.

Adaptive strategies in Ngundu

The coping and adaptation strategies being undertaken by people in Ngundu arc both agriculturally and non-agriculturally based. In the main, the non-agriculturally based ones, such as casual labour, commercialised sex work, consuming and selling wild fruits, food hand-outs and reduction of meals, tend to be short-term

Climate change adaptation by Chivi farmers 55 coping mechanisms, though selling at the market is also a longer-term adaptation measure. In large part, the agriculture-based practices arc adaptation activities, and these include Conservation Agriculture, gardening, irrigation, small grain production, irrigation schemes, carly/dry planting, soil management, water harvesting and use of early maturing varieties of seeds. Some of the adaptation measures have involved support from the central state or from non-governmental organisations, while others have arisen locally and entail intra-villagc support networks. In what follows, I only discuss a few of the strategics and some of the challenges involved.

Conservation agriculture

Conservation Agriculture (CA), as it is officially known amongst development agencies, arose as a means of conserving and enhancing soil fertility and water moisture. In focusing on moisture conservation, it involves using surface cover (mulch) to minimise rainfall run-oil and erosion and, in turn, this improves the conditions for crop establishment and growth (Gukurumc ct al. 2010). This entails minimum tillage or even zero tillage of land, maintenance of organic soil cover and crop rotation. Since around 2008, a non-govermncntal organisation (CARE) alongside the state’s agricultural technical and extension services (AGRITEX) have been promoting CA in Ngundu. According to an AGRITEX official:

We have been advising the farmers here in Ngundu to implement CA because of its numerous advantages. The soil here is no longer fertile making minimum or zero tillage a requirement that will make it regain fertility. We emphasise the need to implement strategies that increase soil fertility and we have taught farmers numerous strategics which include dhiga udye [digging planting basins], mixed cropping among others.

In Ngundu, 88 per cent of the sampled villagers are implementing one or more of the methods under CA. For those households which have used the full ambit of CA methodologies, maize production has increased.

However, many of the agricultural methodologies falling under CA arc not new to Ngundu farmers. Using manure, crop rotation and intercropping arc well-established practices pre-dating CA. For Ngundu farmers, some of these methodologies arc now more difficult to pursue, because of the smaller land sizes (with the establishment of separate cross-generational households) and the absence of organic manure (with declining number of beasts). Other CA practices such as dhiga udye (in which rain will collect) and minimum or zero tillage arc not part of the agricultural history of the Ngundu people.

The farmers in Ngundu largely believe in their “old ways” of farming, a situation which explains in part their partial reluctance in implementing dhiga udye (which is promoted as “dig and survive”) - digging holes in untillcd land before the rains come is also regarded as too strenuous in terms of labour requirements (in particular, for elderly villagers and de facto female-headed households).

Minimum and zero tillage are not well eomprehended by Ngundu farmers as their conventional ways of farming require total clearing and tilling of land before planting. In particular, they fail to understand the zero-tillage practice of planting crops in a field full of weeds. Because of this, many farmers stick to their old ways of tilling the land cither using hoes or ploughs. As one farmer emphasised: “We grew up knowing that we till the land first then we dig holes and plant. We do not know this method of first planting in a field full of weeds”.

Mixed cropping and crop diversification, for instance growing maize and ground nuts simultaneously, is another component of the CA package. These methods, in particular intercropping, also have been central to Ngundu farming practices historically, but crop diversification (involving the sub-division of plots) is difficult to pursue because of small plot sizes. In the case of crop diversification, one farmer said: “My field is small, so if I plant my crops separately and divide my field into planting different crops, it means that my maize portion will become smaller affecting my maize yields. Maize is the staple food, so I prefer just growing maize”. Intercropping continues to be popular as, in the words of another farmer, “you do not waste land leaving space with nothing”. Another villager added that: “It mostly helps us who do not have the money to buy from supermarkets. From mixed cropping we get sadza [the staple food] and oil, and we also get soup from a single harvest. So, from groundnuts 1 get peanut butter for our bread and I get maize meal from maize”. In the case of CA, then, Ngundu farmers thoughtfully consider its various agricultural methodologies and, in drawing upon their historical repertories and present conditions of existence, seek to negotiate their agricultural lives by a process of selection.

Small grains

With regard to small grain production as an adaptive strategy, this is a crop which over a number of years fell into disuse. The cultivation of small grains (such as sorghum and rapoko), as indicated by an elderly villager, was widespread before the introduction of maize in the 1950s and was “our food when we were growing up”. Small grain production declined from the 1960s because of its labour intensiveness and the problem of qucla birds eating the grains (which are not covered by sheaths like maize), alongside the more pleasant taste of maize when made into sadza. One villager lamented: “If I cook sadza with small grains even using the smallest pot I have, none of my children will eat it because of its taste”. Hence, with time, most households in Ngundu stopped altogether producing small grains and cultivated maize instead. Nevertheless, given that they arc drought resistant and therefore more suitable than maize in the context of declining rainfall, 19 per cent of the villagers now cultivate small grains on a significant scale, and another 24 per cent also grow small grains though focusing mainly on maize. At times, both CARE and AGRITEX have sought to encourage Ngundu farmers to plant small grains.

Small grains, in the past, were planted on the households’ larger fields which existed at the time, with the knowledge that birds would consume some of the

Climate change adaptation by Chivi farmers 57 grains. Now that the field sizes have decreased, the entire crop could be consumed by birds. In fact, most of the villagers who currently plant small grains have larger fields. This requires, as it did in the past, significant labour, including very intricate weeding and harvesting techniques. Just as significant, when these crops start producing grain in the field, the crops need to be watched continuously to chase away the birds. This requires a field attendant (a household member) to move from one end of the field to the other, banging empty bottles to make noise so as to chase the birds away. In trying to encourage others to grow small grains, one of these farmers argued: “The problem is that few people cultivate small grains. It will be better if a significant number of people cultivated them for it will resolve the bird issue. If few cultivate small grains, they get low yields”.

I also observed that households headed by elderly Ngundu residents were more inclined to grow small grains, given their past knowledge and experience of these crops. Sckuru vaTobias spoke eloquently about this, and I quote him at length:

People in this place do not fully comprehend the significance of small grains. They want to be pampered so that they grow small grains. The issue here is that the young people do not know the seriousness of the problems that we arc going through .... They arc used to be given hand-outs that’s why .... I started to plant small grains again from 2010 when I realised the diminishing yields of maize. I have 2 hectares. On that land I always make sure I dedicate half of the land to small grains. It has always worked out for me. I have grandchildren; they try to chase away the birds .... In such a case I harvest better yields as compared to maize and I am so happy with this.

Most Ngundu farmers still remain reluctant to crop small grains, even though they arc aware of their drought-resistant qualities and realise that their maize yields were reducing because of recurrent droughts.

Casual labour

Casual labour in Ngundu is primarily a coping strategy pursued under extreme conditions of vulnerability arising from a shock (such as a death of a household member), but it may transition into a longer-term adaptation strategy as local crop production yields continue to be subject to ebbs and Hows. In Ngundu, over 70 per cent of the households were involved in casual labour at some time during the agricultural season. Casual labour is commonly known as maricho in the Shona vernacular, meaning a piece of work performed for other villagers in exchange for food, soap, sugar, old clothing or even money. The possibility of casual labour is, in part, conditioned by the specific relations that exist in the Ngundu villages. More specifically, for a villager to provide labour to those who require it, he or she needs to have cordial and trusting relations. Those known to drink heavily in Ngundu find it difficult to obtain casual work as they arc considered as unreliable.

Those who provide casual labour are usually from poor and very poor Ngundu households, and their labour is typically provided to the better-off householdswhich often receive remittances from family members employed elsewhere. I divide casual labour activities into two categories: agricultural activities and non-agricultural activities. Considering that agriculture continues to be the main livelihood strategy in Ngundu, the agricultural season is the period during which casual labour is frequently required. As one causal labourer said: “You may find some people who ask you to come and put manure in their fields. If I find someone who wants me to provide labour, I go”.

Agricultural casual labour activities involve pre-harvest activities, such as land preparation, planting, weeding, spraying and applying fertiliser on crops. Other activities include harvesting, shelling and threshing, winnowing and packing. Even if there is a known possibility that the upcoming agricultural season may be subject to erratic rainfall, the early stages of crop production (like land preparation and planting) will still be done by villagers. As one villager claimed: “We cannot stop farming because we do not know what God has planned for us as maybe he will feel our sorrow and bring good rains”. As such, in every agricultural season, land preparation, planting and weeding still require labour. This means that climate change itself, notably insufficient rainfall, affects causal labour requirements insofar as no labour is required if the crops have wilted in the fields.

Those who provide casual labour search for work amongst local villagers in Ngundu or go to nearby resettlement areas like Nyahombc which is 20 kilometres away from Ngundu. According to one female villager: “We do casual labour at Nyahombc, where we arc given one bucket of maize for digging one hole of manure. We then give the maize to our children and go back again”. Though casual labourers arc often paid in kind (clothes or food), some prefer to be paid in cash, in order to be able to buy seeds and fertilisers to use in their own fields if time allows.

Non-agricultural casual labour activities include fetching water and carrying sand for construction. In the past, these activities involved male casual labourers exclusively. But the dire circumstances around crop production and yields in Ngundu have compelled women to partake in strenuous activities that were once regarded as men’s work (like fetching water for construction). One female casual labour spoke about this with reference to low crop yields: “In order to get maize for sadza we fetch water for those who are constructing houses and we ask to be paid in maize. If they do not have, we ask for money and then buy maize”. Again, most of the villagers hiring casual labour for these purposes arc better-off households. As articulated by one casual labourer: “Most of those who we provide labour for have money as they receive remittances from their children who arc in South Africa. So there is a high chance of getting paid in cash and then we go and buy maize for sadza". Carrying sand for construction is another laborious activity that is also undertaken by both women and men. In fact, it appeared that more women than men were involved in this labouring work. More specifically, it was mainly prevalent amongst widowed women who were de jure household heads and were forced to find ways of survival.

Sex work

The Ngundu villages arc located close to Ngundu Growth Point, which is a popular place in Zimbabwe mainly because it is situated along the Bcitbridgc-Chirundu road corridor which is a Trans-African highway network and one of the country’s busiest highways. As a result, it is a resting point for numerous travellers, and this has contributed to the rise of sex work amongst Ngundu women, particularly unmarried women. Truck drivers - who arc mainly in transit coming or going to South Africa, Zambia, Malawi and the Democratic Republic of Congo - arc the major customers, as well as local gold panners.

Though I was unable to interview any sex workers, Ngundu villagers openly spoke about this informal work. In being seemingly concerned about the loss of control over the bodies and mobility of young women, some villagers tended to argue that the sex workers had lavish lives and simply wanted to avoid the strenuousness of agricultural work. Others were more sympathetic and spoke about the serious challenges faced by many women in Ngundu arising from the climate change-induced low yields attained in crop production. One villager thus said: “There arc some who do sex working because of desperation and the need to take care of themselves and send their children to school”. While some women in Ngundu were able to grow tomatoes and vegetables and sell them at the flea market at Ngundu Growth Point, the sex workers did not have this option.

Some sex workers arc teenage girls who had run away from the village due to poverty and the failure on the part of their parents to send them to school, with the nearby growth point providing an opportunity to explore work opportunities. According to one elder, “small girls come from Mwcnezi and even Mutarc, but we have girls that reside here in Ngundu whom we know. When older men see young girls, they cannot control themselves due to the lust that they have for these young girls”. The local chief also lamented what the elder said:

I came across two young girls who were wearing school uniforms having run away from home. They were failing to get in the bccrhall because they were underage. I asked them where they came from and they said they were from Matsveru [which is in Chivi District]. They were conducting sex work outside the bccrhall charging only a dollar per person.

Other villagers claimed that young women were also wearing school uniforms as a way of attracting older clients who preferred young girls. Whatever the case may be, teenage girls from the Ngundu villagers arc often given shelter by older women at the growth point, in exchange for a share of the clients’ payment.

Because of the sheer volume of sex work at Ngundu Growth Point, and the involvement of women and girls from Ngundu villages, the Southern Africa AIDS Dissemination Service (SAFAIDS) is active at the growth point in raising awareness and counseling sex workers and others about safe sex and the dangers of HIV infection. SAFAIDS even sponsored local sex workers in Ngundu growth point to go to Pretoria (in South Africa) for a workshop about sex worker rights.

Food hand-outs

Finally, food aid, popularly known as food hand-outs, is a coping mechanism that has helped Ngundu villagers to survive in the context of a changing climate. Close to one-third of the Ngundu households have, in recent times, received these handouts from development agencies. Food hand-outs have been mainly given by CARE and Red Cross in Ngundu. When food hand-outs first came (during the major drought in 1992), all households were benefiting from them, since everyone was affected by the drought and later poverty. The villagers would receive mcalic meal, cooking oil, beans and barley. This practice continued as droughts persisted in the area due to climate change affecting crop yields. However, from the perspective of these non-governmental organisations, the frequent distribution of food fostered a dependency syndrome amongst the villagers, and they then decided to target only the most destitute households. These households typically do not receive remittances and, in terms of their own efforts, they mainly depend on casual labour as a coping strategy, especially in times of drought. At times, casual labour opportunities though arc few and far between. Other groups targeted include pregnant and lactating mothers and children who arc below three months old.

In addition to this, and sometimes based on local social networks, food handouts arc distributed amongst Ngundu households. Poor households arc at times assisted by better-off households when the situation becomes particularly dire. The councillor thus noted that: “You cannot die in a world full of people. You will just go seeking for assistance from people and they will give you food”. The poor and very poor households are known amongst the Ngundu villagers and, generally, they arc seen as hard-working people worthy of assistance. Better-off villagers also may assist others without being requested to do so. Considering that it is embarrassing and shameful to ask for food for free, people sec food-handouts in the villages as a last resort. The most basic commodity asked for from other villagers is mealie meal to cook the staple food of sadza.

In some instances, though, local tensions emerge as there are a few villagers who take advantage of the generosity of others and continuously ask for food hand-outs. Maize in Ngundu is usually dried outside in a granary locally known as ngarani and, by walking around the villages, it is easy to see how much a household cropped from a particular harvest. Those who have a good harvest are visibly known and may be inundated with requests for help. To avoid such a situation from arising, those who obtain high yields quickly complete the shelling process and put their maize in built-in granaries so that the quantity of maize in storage is unknown to other villagers. When I visited one villager’s house, she had maize in her outside granary, and this attracted many to come asking for maize. She noted that: “Some come here begging for food, crying that their children are dying from hunger. There is nothing you can do except to give them food. You would not want to go to their funeral because they died from hunger”. During my presence at this homestead, a woman came and asked for one bucket of maize. She felt embarrassed to ask for the maize in the midst of my conversation with the owner, so she indicated shyly (while laughing nervously) that “I have also come to ask for maize”.


The chapter has examined Ngundu farmers’ everyday lives and livelihoods, including a range of agricultural and non-agricultural activities. Ngundu farmers arc cognisant of climate change and variation, showing a particular concern about erratic rainfall patterns (compared to temperature change) when it comes to the effects of climate change on their agricultural activities. Their understanding of climate change does not derive from scientific arguments but, rather, from their daily experiences of living and farming in Ngundu over an extended period. There is also a cultural-cum-spiritual clement to local conceptions of climate change, with elderly Ngundu residents, in particular, possibly being involved in “climate change denialism” insofar as they frame climate change with reference to villagers’ lost connection to ancestral spirits. This cultural dimension to climate change also configures their climate change adaptation measures.

Though willing in part to adopt adaptation programmes brought in from the outside (by development and state agencies), Ngundu farmers often arc selective in doing so. In this respect, they draw upon deeply historical agricultural practices which, in the past, were central to their agricultural way of life and which, if restored from their perspective, would enhance their capacity to adapt to local climate change dynamics. Currently, there arc a wide range of coping and adaptation measures in place in Ngundu, with some of these seemingly consolidating villagebased ethics (such as hand-outs) while others (notably, sex work) going contrary to these ethics. Overall, though, local farmers’ perceptions and concerns about climate change do not directly translate into climate change coping and adaptation strategies, as an array of challenges and opportunities mediate the relationship between everyday concerns and adaptation processes. With climate change continuing to undercut the livelihoods of Ngundu farmers, any outside programmes will need to be sensitive to their historical, cultural and spiritual past and present.


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