By Nudge Sustainability Reporter Trish Nyarumbu
Agriculture remains the back bone of Zimbabwe despite the current increasing developments towards information technology, maths and engineering. The field however faces many challenges, especially the effects of climate change. Predictions of climate change in Zimbabwe, and the region, suggests an increase in the frequency and severity of droughts caused by a shift in the start of the rains and increasing intensity of mid-season dry periods (Rockstrom, 2003). Because of the heavy dependence on rains, the country is not able to provide for its own food and nutrition and is dependant on importing food. Zimbabwe has started a number of programs to help the community cope with the unpredictable climate change.
One of these programs was Community Biodiversity Management and Resilience to Climate Change, which was aimed at coming up with Local Adaptation Plans of Action (LAPAs) in the most vulnerable areas. The project led by a local NGO Community Technology Development Organisation (CTDO) in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture initiated work on the concept of community gene banks to conserve seed material of indigenous land races and other interesting cultivated varieties. This was found important to promote breeding programs so that they incorporate the local gene pool, which the farmers are currently cultivating. This work was building on experiences learnt from countries such as India were farmers are involved during the initial stages of plant variety selections (PVS) and then participatory plant breeding (PPB). The program had seed fairs, which helped to increase the farmer seed network promoting the sharing of experiences. Biodiversity conservation were found to increase the chances of community’s resilience in the face of climate change for it promotes diversified farming (Fig 1). This increases the probability of harvest thus reducing hunger and malnutrition.
Community gene banks (Fig 2 & 3) are an important initiative as they safeguard erosion and extinction of local genetic material. There is complete ownership by the farmers as they run the gene bank with advice from the National gene bank of Zimbabwe and local NGOs.
Source: (Community Technology Development Organisation, 2010)