21 July 2023
Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association hosted the inaugural Gwanda Climate Indaba from the 20th of July to the 21st of July 2023, under the theme “Strengthening Local Level Governance Structures on Climate Change”. Climate Indabas are a multi-stakeholder dialogue platform dedicated to advancing the accountability of institutions working on climate action. The Climate Indabas provide a platform for those most affected by the impacts of climate change to assess the extent to which existing legal, policy and institutional arrangements meet their emerging needs. The platform enables communities to have a voice and influence ongoing policy reforms. Such platforms further help in shaping the key asks for marginalised communities as the country gears to participate in the Conference of Parties (COP) 28 which is slated to take place in Dubai from 30 November to 12 December 2023.
The Climate Indaba was attended by Gwanda communities (smallholder farmers, Irrigation Management Committee members and Environmental Management Committee members) from Wards 2, 3 and 18 and District Stakeholders including representatives from Zimbabwe National Water Authority, Environmental Management Agency, Forestry Commission, AGRITEX, and the Ministry of Women Affairs, Small and Medium Enterprises and Community Development, Gwanda Rural District Council, District Development Coordinator, Ministry of Youth, Sports, Arts and Recreation, Forestry Commission.
Zimbabwe has previously demonstrated its dedication to combating climate change. This dedication is demonstrated both internationally and domestically. Internationally, this is done through the Kyoto Protocol, the Paris Climate Agreement, and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Numerous laws, regulations, and strategies relating to climate change are in place at the federal level. The Constitution, the Environmental Management Act, the Climate Policy, the National Climate Change Response Strategy, Renewable Energy Policy, Long-term Greenhouse Gas Emissions Strategies (2020-2050) and the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs)are a few of these. Recently, Zimbabwe developed a Carbon Trading Framework that is aimed at promoting green development and the restoration of the environment. Pursuant to this, ZELA participated in the 1st edition of the Africa Voluntary Carbon Markets Forum where the Deputy Director, Shamiso Mtisi was part of the community inclusion panel unpacking the rights-based approach to climate change.
Gwanda District falls under agro-ecological regions IV and V characterised by low and erratic rainfall. Gwanda’s forests are home to Mopane worms and several artisanal, small scale and large mining activities are being done in the district. Climate change impacts have resulted in lower yields and diminishing nutritional quality due to droughts, heat waves and flooding as well as increases in pests and plant diseases. Climate change continues to threaten agricultural activities and irrigation schemes have been established to enhance community resilience and boost the adaptive capacity of communities in Gwanda.
Several problems have been noted in Gwanda which further exacerbate impacts of climate change on marginalised communities. These include:
• Financial, institutional and social barriers that inhibit successful climate change management. Poverty drives communities to adapt to climate shocks by using unsustainable methods like river-sand poaching along major rivers like Umzingwane and selling of firewood resulting in increased deforestation.
• The limited capacity of institutions due to limited personnel tasked with catchment area management results in ineffective coordination and enforcement of environmental laws across districts. There is rampant streambank cultivation and riverbed gold mining along the Umzingwane River in the Insiza District .This damages the river basin which also serves the Gwanda District.
• The limited capacity of AGRITEX and Veterinary Services to respond to farmers and address the emerging issues caused by climate change like diseases/pests that are resistant to pesticides that cause new and deadlier disease variants in crops and livestock.
• The late distribution of farming inputs such as fertiliser by the Grain Marketing Board and continuous distribution of non-organic chemicals that is counterproductive to efforts to reduce carbon emissions in the agriculture sector,
• The general limited visibility at the local level of stakeholders such as EMA, ZINWA and the Forestry Commission to assist in some of the environmental concerns.
• The lack of proper induction coupled with limited resources for induction and technical support among environmental management committees and traditional leaders on climate change laws and policies, including the importance of developing and implementing local-level by-laws.
Participants at the Indaba:
-Commended the Government and partners for supporting communities in Gwanda to adopt sustainable means of farming for example zero-tillage, climate smart agriculture
-Re-affirmed their commitment to supporting the NDCs implementation process and called upon the Government and partners to enhance education and awareness, translating most of the climate-related documents to local languages for easier dissemination
-Recognized the urgent need for prioritizing climate financing of key sectors most impacted by climate change and called upon the Government to implement the National Budget Guidelines financing climate action
-Called upon the Government to prioritize the review of agriculture, energy and industrial sector water use policies to ensure farmers get better access to available shared water resources to boost community adaptive capacities
-Acknowledged that public resources are already constrained and institutions working on climate change management rely on establishing partnerships with communities to build resources to enhance forests resources and build carbon sinks that can aid in generating more income for climate action
-Supported the efforts of frontline communities and traditional leaders who are spearheading who are traditional knowledge systems in environmental adaptation and mitigation.
Reminded the Government and development partners of the importance of inclusion and advocate for a bottom-up approach making sure that children and youth front liners, women and persons with disabilities are part of dialogue and decision-making on climate.
Following the discussions at the Indaba, the call on is for commitment to the following:
- Allocation of adequate resources to the Gwanda Rural District Council to facilitate proper induction, periodic training and refresher training of Environmental Sub-Committees at all levels (village, ward, district) so that all relevant stakeholders are equipped to respond to community climate change needs and interests.
- A multisectoral approach to addressing climate change issues and other broader community environmental issues and concerns, in line with the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1), with the District Development Coordinator, Gwanda Rural District Council and traditional leaders (chiefs and village heads) taking the lead.
- Research on chemicals that can help deal with emerging climate change related diseases and new trends in pesticides conducted in collaboration with Agritex.
- Provision of improved seed varieties and crop varieties which are tolerant to climate change through the Agritex office.
- Promotion of water harvesting practices that can help communities to cope with water shortages and ensure equitable access to water resources conducted in collaboration with ZINWA.
The Indaba was made possible by the support of Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).