Assessing climate change compatible smallholder water management strategies in southern dry lands of Zimbabwe

Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
The rise in temperature, rainfall decline and increase in other extreme weather scenarios are some of the global climate change and variability challenges affecting most countries. The global south countries bear the most burden from changes in climate. Communities in dry lands continue to experience increasing pressure from water scarcity due to the increased frequency and magnitude of droughts. Smallholder farmers in dry lands keep counting losses of the accumulated productive assets, which recovery efforts cannot replace. The impact of climate change on Zimbabwe’s rainfed smallholder farmers' livelihoods and economies manifest in increased poverty and vulnerability at community levels. Against this background, the research aimed at assessing how smallholder communities in dry lands can adapt to climate change using climate-compatible water management strategies. The study employed interpretivism, and philosophical realism approaches to gathering empirical evidence in Save and Mazvihwa communal areas in Chiredzi and Zvishavane districts, respectively. Interpretivism and the realism approach enabled the gathering of indepth qualitative and provided quantitatively driven scientific and statistical data in response to the questions. The study participants were drawn from smallholder farming households, government departments, NGOs/CBOs officials, local authorities, extension officers, traditional leaders, village pump minders and water point committee members. A household questionnaire administered to randomly selected respondents gathered quantitative data, while measurements, direct field observations, focus group discussions, and key informant interviews provided qualitative data. Evidence from the study indicates the continued increase in climate change and variabilityrelated constraints affecting smallholder water management in drylands. Water harvesting opportunities are not fully exploited, climate and weather information communication is not effectively enforced, institutional arrangements are not utilised effectively, and ecosystemsbased water replenishment practice is not in force. The findings of this study highlight that water governance, climate and weather information services, behaviour change, private sector service provider roles, and risk management strategies need integration and implementation within the socio-economic context of the communities facing water stress. Key contributions to the body of knowledge, governance mechanism and a community of practice are made by the study through revealing gaps, areas of convergence and divergence in policy and practice, leveraging opportunities in climate change, and financial mechanisms. The study presented a “Systems-based Adaptive Water Management Framework” that provides sector-wide, multi-level linkages and proven approaches for achieving resilient water management that adapts to multiple scenarios, including ecosystems, financial, political and institutional arrangements. The study concludes that the susceptibility of dry land communities to water stress may be related to aggravating effects of climate change that need a sector-wide approach, accommodating context-based and institutional arrangements.
A thesis submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy to the Faculty of Science, School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 2023
Global climate change, Smallholder farmers