Perspectives on adaptation to water scarcity and drought of small-scale farmers in Masvingo, Zimbabwe

Mpala, Thandiwe Annastacia
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The study investigated the impacts of climate change on rural agricultural productivity, precisely focusing on how rural farmers adapt to the brunt of adverse weather conditions. The focus was to understand the asset combinations rural farmers employ to build adaptive capacity against climate change. The rural areas in Zimbabwe, just like every other place on earth, suffer significantly from climate changes, and a great deal of work was conducted on this phenomenon. However, there has been little attention paid to rural farmers in the Zaka district in Zimbabwe. Therefore, this study was relevant for we wanted to understand the implications of climate change on Zimbabwean rural households, particularly in drought prone areas. The research focused on four areas; the impacts of climate change and its effect on Zaka farmers' livelihoods; the resources farmers used and the access conditions in acquiring them; the additional barriers the farmers faced in adapting to climate change; and the systems and structures in place that foster adaptation in their livelihoods. Interpretivism influenced the philosophical nature of this research. The study employed a qualitative research design to conduct investigations in wards 1-3 and 15 in Zaka district, Masvingo province, south-eastern side of Zimbabwe. Interviews with key informants and subsistence farmers, focus groups, participant observations, and the literature review were employed to collect the data. The study collected information from farmers, organisation officials, and other climate change professionals. The research contributed to the knowledge gap by identifying assets and their combination that play a cardinal role in building adaptive capacity and resilience of rural farming communities to secure sustainable livelihoods in the face of increased environmental change. The analysis showed that the combination of high temperatures, erratic rains, and pest outbreaks had increasingly made it difficult for Zaka rural households to engage in meaningful agricultural production. Irrigation and rainfed farmers were susceptible to increased climatic conditions and increased crop failure. The development had created income instability, job insecurity, and intensified household and farming expenditures, exposing farmers' households to high levels of poverty and food insecurity. This relationship had indeed affected their ability to generate income to access the procurement of different services. The results showed that Zaka farmers had used human, natural, and physical capitals v combination to improve their crop productivity and used the social and financial capitals combination to attain income to access services that included food, transport, personal use, medicals, emergencies, agrochemicals, water payments, and livestock. The research found that the farmers' resource accessibility is subject to institutional factors, affordability, land policies, and limited crop diversification and financial infrastructure. The Zimbabwean socio economic climate (2019-2020) and the COVID-19 restrictions were additional obstacles to the farmers' adaptation. The barriers weakened their asset combinations making it difficult for both irrigated and rainfed farmers to engage in meaningful production and attain income. These developments did indeed make rural households in Zaka susceptible to high-level poverty incidences. The study recommends measures to improve the adaptive capacity of rural farmers. These include improving social protection and safety net interventions, fixed price controls, increasing small-scale farmers' access to microfinance, increased innovations on CSA technologies, intelligent design, and implementation of IWRM and IPMS.
A dissertation submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science to the Faculty of Science, School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 2022