Tag Archives: unicef

Climate negotiations open in Paris: a perspective from southern Africa

Today COP 21 opens in Paris. Over two weeks a new climate deal will hopefully be agreed. It is a critical juncture for humanity. As high level officials discuss options in these negotiations, many people around the world are already living with climate change and uncertainty.

In Southern Africa, the effects of what is expected to be a massive El Niño event are being felt. El Niño is a natural climatic event when the equatorial waters in the eastern Pacific ocean warm. It occurs every few years, but this one is expected to be the most extreme ever. El Niño disrupts regular weather patterns, increasing the risk of droughts in some areas and heavy rainfall and floods in others. The consequences can be severe food shortages, as well as heightened risk of floods, disease and forest fires.

The UN is offering dire warnings, and contingency and emergency plans are being drawn up. Although El Niño is not due to anthropogenic climate change, climate scientists argue that the effects can be exacerbated. Are we witnessing the future of climate uncertainty under climate change?

There have been a number of El Niño events in southern Africa over the years, upsetting the older pattern of regular cycles of higher and lower rainfall. In the early 1990s, we studied the consequences in our book on dryland agriculture in Zimbabwe. Massive livestock deaths were recorded as grazing ran out, and people were plunged into deep insecurity. The economy lost 8 per cent of GDP, with ramifications across sectors. Our book ‘Hazards and Opportunities: Farming Livelihoods in Dryland Africa – Lessons from Zimbabwe’ (sadly out of print, but you can still get it second-hand) was not especially framed by climate change debates, but reading it again now, it is highly relevant. Back then, we were indeed investigating what would now be called ‘climate adaptation’ responses in the context of extreme drought.

In Zimbabwe, the rains are certainly late and the prognosis from the Met Department is not good. The Zimvac assessment, echoed in recent press releases by UN agencies, warn of up to 1.5 million people being food insecure at the end of the season. As commented before, these estimates have to be qualified, but there is little doubt that the situation is severe. As ever, food security numbers are being used as a political football, and a spokesperson for Tendai Biti’s new PDP party, Jacob Mafume, clearly couldn’t resist making up a completely random number, claiming that 3.5 million people were in need of food aid.

This sort of irresponsible numbers game helps no-one, but disputes over figures should not detract from the serious business of responding to potential major drought impacts. Contingency planning is an essential task when disasters are potentially in the offing. Donor funds are flowing into Zimbabwe, but the lack of state capacity, and the continued hesitance of donors, NGOs and government working together, is hampering preparations.

But for the longer term, building local resilience to respond to climate uncertainty is essential. This inevitably must be central to any development option for the future in the context of living with climate change. No matter what happens in Paris, we will all have to live with the consequences of several degrees of global temperature rise.

This means more droughts, more floods, and less certainty for rainfed agricultural production and livestock keeping in particular. Resilience building has become a favoured buzzword, but it must start with what people already do, and build on local solutions and knowledge. This means storing more water, shifting to more drought resilient crops, creating livestock systems that can be buffered against climate shifts and more.

This post was written by Ian Scoones and first appeared on Zimbabweland



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Education on the farms

In a recent article in the UK’s Guardian newspaper, Alex Duval Smith reports from Goromonzi on the challenges of educating children in the new resettlement areas. She describes how in Dunstan farm the former farm house is used as a ‘satellite school’ for nearly 300 pupils. But while there is a building and some teachers, there is little other support. And this 12 years after land reform.

The donors, she explains, still refuse to support development in the ‘contested areas’. DFID, despite offering a new tranche of funding to the education sector will not support the resettlement areas. And UNICEF, who has a global responsibility for children, seems unable to respond without the blessing of the donors. This story is repeated again and again across the new resettlement areas.

Indeed the conditions on Dunstan farm are rather better than other places. Here the war vets vacated the main farm house and now every room is used as a classroom or for teachers’ accommodation. Even the former tennis court has been cultivated to provide maize. In Masvingo there was less building infrastructure as the farms were so huge, and many schools still operate outside under trees. In Zimbabwe, people are deeply committed to education. The new settlers often represent the generation that benefited from the post-Independence expansion of educational opportunity in the rural areas during the 1980s. They want the same for their children.

A variety of strategies are followed across our study sites. Some maintain split households, with children still resident in the communal areas where they can attend schools, often resident with grandparents or other relatives. Otherwise, often ramshackle schools are built by the community – from poles and mud, or in old farm buildings and sheds.  Considerable effort has been invested in creating these new schools, demonstrating the capacities for local level investment through community-based effort on the new resettlements.

Once registered as ‘satellite schools’, teachers have been allocated by the Ministry. Across Masvingo province, there are 162 satellite primary schools (out of a total of 849) and 83 satellite secondary schools (out of a total of 335), with each school accomodating several hundred schools.  Nearly all satellite schools are in the new resettlements: the scale of neglect is very clear.

For example, in Uswaushava, an area which was invaded and settled in 2000, but only became formally recognised as part of the ‘fast track’ programme in late 2011, there are two schools. The satellite primary school was established in 2002 and has the authorised staff compliment of 16 certified teachers with over 650 pupils attending (328 boys and 331 girls), according to Ministry of Education data from February 2010.  Uswaushava satellite secondary school was established in 2004 and has 120 boys and 110 girls. Again, in 2010 a full complement of 10 teachers was in place. However the schools were built by the community and there has been no accommodation for teachers built to date. Most teachers therefore commute daily from Triangle some 20 km away.

While educational facilities exist today on the A1 resettlements (although much less on the A2 farms), the quality of the facilities is grossly inadequate. Teaching and learning under such conditions is far from ideal, and there is no equipment and resources in the absence of donor support. Many teachers remain deeply committed to teaching in the rural areas, but low pay, poor conditions and lack of support means that others give up and leave.

Some children have experienced their whole school career under such conditions. A whole generation has missed out on effective schooling. As the donors contemplate removing ‘sanctions‘, then perhaps improving the education infrastructure on the new farms could become an important early priority.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/poverty-matters/2012/apr/24/zimbabwe-farmers-struggle-educate-children. See also: http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/poverty-matters/2012/may/04/aid-zimbabwe-resettled-farmers-contested-land


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