Victor Maphosa recently in MUDZI
ZIMBABWE joined the rest of the world in celebrating World Desertification and Drought Day on Friday, with the government calling on everyone to get involved in conserving and properly managing the environment.
National commemorations for the day were held in Makaha, Mudzi District, Mashonaland East Province.
The United Nations General Assembly has designated 17 June each year as World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought to raise public awareness of desertification, land degradation and drought (DLDD) in line with the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD ) to promote. which Zimbabwe has joined.
This year’s theme is “Emerging from the drought together”.
Deputy Minister for Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Barbara Rwodzi, officiating during the commemorations at Makaha Secondary School, called for prioritizing sustainable land management programs to combat drought and other challenges.
“In 2015, in some areas of Zimbabwe, about 60 percent of livestock died due to drought,” she said.
“These statistics, ladies and gentlemen, are alarming and call for the prioritization of sustainable land management projects and programs that provide long-term drought management solutions as well as climate change adaptation measures to support community livelihoods.”
Deputy Minister Rwodzi said that the problems of land degradation, drought and their impacts know no borders and communities should actively participate in finding solutions to environmental degradation.
She said land degradation, drought and their impacts are challenges of a global dimension that contribute not only to economic, social and environmental problems such as poverty, ill health, food shortages, biodiversity loss, water scarcity and reduced climate resilience, but also to them exacerbate changes and other shocks.
It is no coincidence, Vice Minister Rwodzi said, that the 2022 World Desertification and Drought Day was held in the Makaha region, which not only lies in the drought-prone Agroecological Region 5, but also has small-scale mining and small-scale economic activity as a focus.
“It is a well-known fact that human activities linked to natural disasters such as drought contribute to land degradation around the world, and particularly in Zimbabwe,” she said.
She said the government values the role of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in supporting the various environment-related programs in general and the Preparatory Support for the Sustainability of the Extractive Sector in Zimbabwe project being implemented in Ward 14 by Mudzi.
The project supports the reduction of mercury consumption in mining as well as providing alternative livelihoods for the community.
“This was a timely intervention as the Makaha area faced multiple threats from artisanal mining, seasonal droughts and prolonged mid-season dry spells that forced the local community to rampantly exploit gold for their survival,” Deputy Minister Rwodzi said .
“I have reliable information that this area is suffering from environmental degradation and health hazards due to extensive mining due to the widespread use of mercury and cyanide for gold extraction. This needs to be addressed and reversed as it has long-term negative impacts on the livelihoods of residents in this area.
“My Department is also fully aware that artisanal mining continues to be a significant contributor to Zimbabwe’s economic growth and provides an estimated 500,000 direct livelihoods. I therefore call on the sector to run its mining activities in a sustainable manner to protect the environment.
“I urge all miners to rehabilitate abandoned mining sites and restore the land to other productive uses.”
In a speech read on her behalf by the Mashonaland East Provincial Affairs and Decentralization Secretary, Aplonia Munzverengwi, Mashonaland East Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Decentralization, commended the government for introducing programs through the UNDP aimed at combating the land degradation and its effects.
UNDP-funded nutritional gardens and tap water projects in at least six villages and a secondary school in Makaha have brought several benefits to the community, including improved agricultural productivity, improved food security, improved rural income, clean water, clean energy and land restoration.
Minister Munzverengwi said a trail of environmental degradation had been left in some parts of the province including Makaha due to gold mining activities.
“However, it is not too late to initiate plans to remediate some of the degraded areas to combat desertification with technical assistance from the Department of Mines and Mine Development and EMA so that we can meet our National Development Strategy 1 targets,” she said.
“I welcome here some of our local communities who have already started working to restore degraded ecosystems and have shown us the way.
“The timely intervention of the Department for Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality in the selection of Makaha as a recipient of the UNDP-funded project entitled ‘Preparatory Support for the Sustainability of the Extractive Sector in Zimbabwe’ is commendable.”
Minister Munzverengwi said the project has helped raise awareness of the impact of unsustainable mining activities and it also provides an alternative livelihood to discourage some people from relying entirely on illegal mining, which is causing land degradation in Ward 14 of the District Mudzi will be reduced.
A tap water system in Makaha has also seen the local community battle the drought.