Friday, December 28, 2012

Zimbabwe ill-prepared for rainfall extremes, farmers say

Madalitso Mwando in the Zimbabwe Mail: Thumeliso Matshobana knows what the devastation of too much water looks like. A smallholder farmer in Zimbabwe’s Midlands, he watched helplessly last year as floods destroyed crops, livestock, homes and schools. The heavy rains, he says, came as “a total surprise.”

The floods left a trail of destruction in traditionally dry and impoverished rural areas of the Midlands and Matebeleland, and rebuilding has been a slow and painful process. “We want rain but not the kind that kills us and destroys our livelihoods. But no one ever seems to know exactly the kind of rains we will have,” Matshobana lamented.

That “makes it hard for us villagers to make necessary preparations,” he said, expressing what has become a common sentiment about unpredictable rain patterns that seem to vex even the country’s meteorological services department.

The Met office, as it is known in Zimbabwe, issued a flood advisory in late November, predicting heavy downpours. But because the Met office has been off the mark many times in the past with its weather predictions, which are now questioned by farmers and disaster preparedness organizations, farmers such as Matshobana find themselves with little idea what to expect or what to do to prepare for floods.

Japhet Hadebe, a climate change researcher working with the Zimbabwe Environment Research Organisation (ZERO) says climate change monitoring remains “a complicated issue in Zimbabwe.”...

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