This season’s failed harvest and the prospect of yet more prolonged dry spells have farmers in Zimbabwe worried. All the more timely then was WFP’s decision choose Zimbabwe for the piloting of an innovative new approach to reducing the impact of climate-related disasters.
Farai Maringi, a mother of eight looks up into the clear blue sky, her worst fears confirmed. There is no sight of rain. Neshuro village, like many other parts of Zimbabwe, is set to have below-average rainfall this season – an outcome which many are ascribing to the El Niño weather phenomenon. This recurring global event means different things for different parts of the world but, for Zimbabwe and most of southern Africa, it is likely to result in lower-than-average rainfall over coming months. This is unwelcome news, coming as it does on top of a drought which this year caused one of the country’s worst harvests in living memory.
In response to the impact of climate change and weather-related shocks like El Niño on livelihoods and food security, WFP has partnered with the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the Government of Zimbabwe on an innovative approach to reducing the impact of climate-related disasters, piloting a Food Security Climate Resilience Facility (FoodSECuRE) in Mwenezi district of central Zimbabwe.
Based on weather forecasts, FoodSECuRE unlocks funds before disasters, but also ensures that funds are available between cycles of disasters, ensuring that reliable, multi-year funding is available to assist vulnerable people in building their resilience to the effects of climate change. The initiative is being piloted in five countries – Guatemala, Niger, Sudan, the Philippines and Zimbabwe.
In Zimbabwe, funds have been released through FoodSECuRE to support the training of farmers like Farai to grow drought-resistant crops and to change their agricultural practices to conserve both soil and water so that, even if the harvest is bad, people will still have food on the table.
With support from the Ministry of Agriculture and the Mwenezi Development Training Centre, WFP and FAO have provided training in Farai’s village to 50 lead farmers on ‘climate-smart’ agriculture, including the use of fertilizers and drought-tolerant small grains such as sorghum.
The farmers have also been provided with agricultural packs consisting of seeds and fertilizers, and have been trained in business practice, marketing strategies, value addition and record keeping.
“With this training we received from WFP through FoodSECuRE, it should be possible to harvest enough even when there is limited rain,” says Farai.
The idea is that the 50 lead farmers will pass on the lessons they have learned to other farmers, allowing the benefits of FoodSECuRE to reach a total of 500 farmers in Mwenezi.
Analysis has shown that such forecast-based systems can save money, reducing the cost of humanitarian response to weather-related disasters by up to 50 percent.