The government of Zimbabwe has called on its citizens to take part in conserving and properly managing their environment and fighting the drought.
The call was made by Deputy Minister for Environment, Climate and Tourism Barbara Rwodzi during commemorations of World Desertification and Drought Day.
The commemorations were held in Makaha, Mudzi District, in the Eastern Province of Mashonaland.
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”.
Rwodzi called for prioritizing sustainable land management programs to combat drought and other challenges.
“In 2015, about 60% of livestock died in some areas of Zimbabwe 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.”
Rwodzi said that 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.
She added that the 2022 World Desertification and Drought Day was held in the Makaha area, which not only lies in drought-prone Agroecological Region 5, but also has artisanal and small-scale mining as an important economic activity.
“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 survival,” 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.”
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.
“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 fully relying on illegal mining, which is causing land degradation in Ward 14 be reduced by Mudzi.
An aqueduct system in Makaha has seen the local community battle the drought.