'Climate change threatens food production'

HARARE - Government has warned that without action to help farmers adjust to changing climate conditions, it will become impossible to grow some staple food crops in some parts of the country.

Maize is most at risk.

Environment minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri (pictured) told delegates at the 13th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP13) round table on drought and sand storms in China that global warming was affecting crops that make up half the country’s food production, with areas growing the staple maize likely to become unviable by the end of the century.

“Climate change, biodiversity loss, desertification, land degradation and drought nexus needs not to be under-estimated.

“In Zimbabwe, some ecological regions are shifting from wetter to a drier regime.

“As a result, food producing agro-ecological regions of Zimbabwe regions  2 and 3 have shrunk by 49 percent and 14 percent while the drier regions 4 and 5 have increased by 5,6 percent and 22,5 percent respectively, resulting in water scarcity and shortage of firewood,” she said.

Muchinguri-Kashiri said maize production also declined from four tonnes per hectare to 0,48 tonnes, necessitating government to import grain worth $1,5 billion to feed an estimated five million people.

Sorghum and millet, which have higher tolerance to drought and heat, could replace maize in most places under threat.

And maize-growing areas also have less than 10 years left to change tack under the most extreme climate change scenarios.

She said an estimated 20 000 cattle were also lost due to the El Nino-induced drought.

“The 2016 winter wheat production under irrigation was reduced from 135 metric tonnes to 20 metric tonnes due to rationing of electricity since the levels of water for hydropower generation had been affected by drought,” Muchinguri-Kashiri said.

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