The eradication of poverty and the need to ensure food security are some of the key goals pursued by many poor countries as they seek to achieve sustainable development goals (SDGs). However, the threat of climate change, which is having a devastating effect, makes the achievement of these goals a near impossible task. Indeed, climate change is real and its effect on agriculture on the most vulnerable is already being felt globally especially on loss of livelihoods and food security in poor countries like Zimbabwe.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, Article 25.1, states that everyone has a right to a standard of living adequate for their own health and wellbeing and that of their family, including food among other items. Climate change is making this harder to achieve. Improvement in livelihoods and achieving food security has thus been one of the major development goals for Zimbabwe. For the country to achieve its Vision 2030 of becoming an upper-middle income country it is essential for it to adopt climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies particularly in the agriculture sector. Climate change has and will continue to have a profound effect on livelihoods and food production. The reliance by Zimbabwean farmers on rain-fed agriculture makes them vulnerable to extreme weather events like droughts, floods and cyclones.
In the absence of solid adaptation strategies, many studies predict that temperature and weather changes will reduce yields, affect the quality and safety of crops and livestock as well as directly affecting the livelihoods and food security of millions of local smallholder farmers. Zimbabwe has land area measuring approximately 39 million hectares and from this total, about 32.6 million hectares of this is agricultural land. National parks, wildlife areas, forests and urban settlements occupy the remaining 6.4 million hectares. Given such a scenario, the country’s agriculture industry must and indeed remains a prime contributor to the economy’s fortunes. Agriculture alone contributes circa 15% of the gross domestic product (GDP) while contributing about 45% of the total exports. Furthermore, according to Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) statistics, about 60% of all raw materials for industry come from the agriculture sector while some 70% of the country’s working population is employed in this sector. The country’s growth prospects are highly dependent on developments in the agricultural sector.
Without appropriate action, climate change will certainly increase losses by causing more frequent and extreme weather events. Droughts, floods, unreliable rainfall seasons, hurricanes are some of the extreme weather events that can escalate pest and disease risks, loss of biodiversity and ecosystem degradation. This will impact on land-use systems, livelihoods, water resources and food security, and ultimately leading to forced rural to urban migration.
Climate change has already seen Zimbabwe experiencing erratic seasonal rainfalls, shifting of seasons and extreme weather conditions in the form of floods and droughts which have consequently disrupted the agricultural system. In Zimbabwe, floods do not occur as frequently as droughts. However, La Nina oscillations and cyclone induced weather led to the country succumbing to adverse effects of Cyclone Eline in 2000 as well as the recent devastating Cyclone Idai, which mainly affected the Manicaland region. The dry spell and the resultant heatwaves that hit the country towards the end of 2019 were as a result of the El Nino phenomenon. Such weather events have also given rise to highly destructive pests such the fall armyworm.
Overall, it is imperative for the country to adopt of Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) as an adaptation and mitigation strategy. CSA is an approach for transforming food and agriculture systems to support sustainable development and safeguard food security under climate change. A research carried out by the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (ICTA) and the World Bank in 2017 postulates that Zimbabwe’s agriculture sector requires about USD2.3 billion for implementation of the proposed adaptation and mitigation action plans in the country’s Climate Change Response Strategy. However, financing for CSA projects is inhibited by the limited funding especially from the fiscus. Therefore, there is need for public and private sector partnerships (PPPs) to ensure such CSA achieves adequate funding. Adapting agriculture to climate change requires action based on science and must include three important components: (i) innovation; (ii) investment in technology and; (iii) inclusiveness across borders and sectors.
Services to support CSA include weather index-based crop and livestock insurance and provision of improved climate information targeted at smallholder farmers, through use of information technology devices (mobile phones). Private sector involvement has already started in this space. A local technology company, Cassava Smartech through its Eco-farmer subsidiary, offers farmers a unique bundle of services that can be easily accessed via the mobile phone. The services include access to a trading platform, weather forecasts and micro-insurance and it has over one million registered farmers.
All in all, achieving Zero Hunger by 2030 will depend on how expeditiously the country scales up climate action in agriculture. Without urgent action, millions of people will suffer from hunger and poverty. There is need to accelerate and scale up actions to make agriculture and food systems more efficient, sustainable and climate resilient. That said, the food demand outlook in the Sub Saharan Africa (SSA) region remains very strong. Rapid population growth and increased economic prosperity are expected to create substantial demand and opportunities for the agricultural sector of Africa. The SSA region accounts for more than 950 million people, approximately 13% of the global population. By 2050, this share is projected to increase to almost 22%, or 2.1 billion. This cements the investment case in stocks such as SeedCo and SeedCo International. The SeedCo business model is also not demanding on capex. Generally, most companies in the agricultural sector consume significant amounts of cash on the back of high capex requirements associated with farm acquisitions and maintenance. SeedCo is a biotechnology company and most investments are in R&D. In addition, the out-grower model does not compel the company to invest in farms. While SeedCo is likely to continue facing headwinds in Zimbabwe (worsening macro environment and product pricing constraints), prospects in regional markets (SeedCo International) remain very strong. We view SeedCo as a vehicle of gaining exposure in the food demand growth.
About the Author
Henry Masasire is an Economic & Strategy Analyst and can be reached on +263 776 585 395
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