When the rains started pounding the country after a four-week dry spell it was a surreal moment for many who despite writing off prospects of a bumper maize harvest craved a cooling effect from the scotching heat and a recharge of water sources.
By Kennedy Nyavaya
The persistent summer sun at a time when rain is expected traditionally is enough evidence that seasons have shifted and that has brought chaos over people’s plans with regards to farming.
With the weather getting more erratic over the years, there have been diverse explanations from scientists, religious leaders and the elderly among other opinionated citizens.
While scientists are pushing an astute approach that climate change is a result of global warming exacerbated by irresponsible human activities that release toxic carbon gases into the atmosphere, there are many myths that have been pushed forward to challenge the facts, endorsing supernatural explanations.
“This modernisation of everything is driving the world to an end and all I know is that we have been facing such extreme low levels of rainfall and subsequent unbearable heat because our ancestors are not happy,” said Enos Mataya from Dande.
As far as the septuagenarian is concerned, it is the immorality and fading cultural systems that have brought untold suffering and if left unchecked, local people will never know peace with regards to weather.
“People have gone astray as they do not value the tradition anymore and I acknowledge the presence of churches, but the cultural part needs to be maintained not this situation where people dishonour sacred places. this is what leads to misfortune and bad omens,” said Mataya, who believes the ancestral spirits need to be consulted as a matter of urgency.
Mataya put the blame on the youths whom he said needed a reorientation with the real African traditions and values.
“The youths have shunned our ways and it might be difficult to revert since none of the youths want to be equipped with the information of how things are done,” he said.
Like him, a peasant farmer in his 70s, a significant number of superstitious elderly people believe the unbearable effects of change in climate are a mystic punishment.
Equally, others have bizarrely tied the new weather patterns to politics.
“Drought strikes every election year”. This statement has been sold so cheap that it has become easy to believe because it is concidentally true when one looks at the 2000s and 2008 polls.
However, scientists, backed by convincing evidence, maintain that climate change emanates from toxic carbon gas emissions that are damaging the ozone layer and causing global warming.
Coincidentally, there is an apparent nexus reached between the different terrestrial and celestial explanations to the conundrum. And that is the fact that the rapid change in meteorological conditions is a result of human recklessness.
“The issue of climate change is a phenomenon that is happening as a result of our conduct, we are the cause of climate change,” said Mutoko-based environmentalist Kudakwashe Makanda.
Makanda said the road to achieving environmentally friendly human activity is respecting all aspects of life and actually following what different social confines dictate.
“When we have prolonged dry spells, it is because we are no longer respecting the Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) and now whether the said spirits are happy or not the solution is not appeasement ceremonies but to revert to responsible practices,” he said.
“We are selectively applying these cultural dynamics and we are saying this one is more sacred than the other but the most logical thing is to, for example, replace a tree one has cut so that we maintain healthy forests and that is how we can be good keepers of our environment.”
He said even Christians, guided by the Bible, perceive a dominion over the earth and all its components but have restraint to safeguard the environment as a matter of principle engraved in the “holy book”.
Climate change activist Maxwell Kanotunga said the use of IKS is the only chance that local people have to salvage what is left of the environment, which is in a deplorable state, as well as enhance chances of catching up with other countries in climate change mitigation and adaptation measures.
“What is needed is to combine these IKS and the scientific findings so that we can come up with something better,” he said.
Kanotunga, who is in the process of establishing the Living Green Campaign Zimbabwe to spur his educating efforts for the past decade, highlighted the need to convince people on the reality of climate change so that sustainable methods of living are incorporated before it is too late.
“Many people believe it has always been happening and they are not certain that the changes are being pushed by emissions we are making from mostly motor vehicles and power plants,” he said.
“People still have resistance in terms of culture even when meteorological department tells us new weather trends, we are sticking to our old ways and this is having an impact on our livelihood and agriculture.”
At a recent press briefing in the build-up to the World Wetlands Day, Environment, Water and Climate minister Oppah Muchinguri reiterated that climate change was not a myth and has been a cause for the bad weather conditions the country has endured.
“Climate change is a reality. This has resulted in weather extremes such as floods, droughts, temperature increases that we have also experiences in Zimbabwe,” said Muchinguri.
As the situation gets dire the only chances of survival that humans have, include sustainable farming for food security and vegetation conservation for carbon neutralisation, among others.
Experts have also pointed to the harnessing of green energy like solar.
While donors are jostling to fund advocacy programmes focusing on adaptation and mitigation of climate change effects across the country, there is a glaring detachment among the majority of people, especially in marginalised rural areas.
“It is supposed to be personal so that people know the repercussions of doing this and that. There needs to be ways of parcelling out information and in church sermons and traditional gatherings,” says Makanda
“If it appears to be imposed on them usually they do not accept it that lightly.”
Often times the idea of climate change appears forced on the people and generally their reception depends on if they are getting freebies out of the education process or not and the latter has seen some lose interest.
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