Waiting for rain

By M. Mumpande, T. Ngoma, and F. Ncube 

They will be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.
They shall build up the ancient ruins,
they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations.

(Isaiah 61:3b-4)

Seedlings getting ready for transplant at at MCC partner KMTC (Kulima Mbobumi Training Center) in ZImbabwe.

Seedlings getting ready for transplant at at MCC partner KMTC (Kulima Mbobumi Training Center) in ZImbabwe. MCC Photo/ Matthew Sawatzky.

As in many vulnerable communities worldwide, farmers nervously await the rainy season each year in Binga District in Matabeleland North Province, Zimbabwe. When rains are sparse farmers are forced to plant several times. Normally, the rainy season starts in November. But in recent years, the heavy rain has not come until December, followed by a four- to five-week dry spell in February at a critical stage of crop growth (see graph below).

Binga rainfall chart Edited

During the growing season, temperatures are also rising higher than normal. This results in lower crop yields and the loss of livestock. Then, when farmers are hungry and crops do not bring in money, farmers are compelled to sell their remaining livestock which fetch less in the market because they, too, are undernourished. In most communities in Binga District, famers have resorted to this “distress” selling of livestock and other assets, which is likely to have a negative impact on their farming in future years.

Is climate change causing the rising temperatures and shorter rainy seasons in Binga District? Human-induced climate change is one factor, along with year-to-year and decade-to-decade variations in rainfall patterns, deforestation and non-sustainable farming practices. It is difficult to determine how much each of these factors contribute. Nevertheless, vulnerable communities are left struggling to adapt.

Kulima Mbobumi Training Centre (KMTC), with support from Mennonite Central Committee, is working to help farmers adapt in both the short and long term. In the short term, farmers are supported with drought-tolerant seed, enabling them to harvest a healthy crop even when there is limited rainfall.

As a long term solution, KMTC works to restore damaged farmland and encourages farmers to change their growing patterns – such as by growing short season varieties for small grain and maize and by intercropping cereal crops with legumes to increase soil fertility and herbage for livestock. KMTC also provides training on the negative effects of certain types of conventional farming, deforestation and unplanned settlements, all of which further weaken the ecosystem and cause more vulnerability.

As in Binga District, communities all over the world are struggling to adapt to the impacts of climate change, drought, and deforestation. Programs like the one in Binga can help communities survive, but local and national policymakers must also take action. Join with other people of faith to call on political leaders in the United States to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to do more to help vulnerable communities, like those in Binga District, adapt to a changing reality.

M. Mumpande, T. Ngoma and F. Ncube work with the Kulima Mbobumi (“Family is Life”) Training Centre, a Mennonite Central Committee partner organization in Zimbabwe.