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Zimbabwe: Climate change financing a tall order

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A mowed field with a treelined background

The agricultural revolution entails the creation of a robust sector with methods for lowering susceptibility and enhancing farmer and farming system resilience to negative climate change impacts.

Zimbabwe has made progress in raising food production through various programs such as command agriculture and Pfumvudza, a climate-proof agricultural approach that has provided farmers with farm supplies.

The Pfumvudza initiative is based on conservation agriculture (CA) principles and aids climate-proofing production to some extent.

While these are admirable initiatives, the product has also been affected by climate change, which has decimated the world.

Droughts, dry spells, delayed seasons, floods, hailstorms, pests, illnesses, and other climate change threats are rapidly affecting smallholder farmers in Zimbabwe, necessitating climate change funding.

Zimbabwe’s national climate change strategy is to pave the way for a climate-resilient, low-carbon development economy in which people have sufficient adaptive capacity and can continue to develop in peace with nature.

This is buttressed by the national climate change response strategy, national adaptation plan, the low carbon development strategy, national environmental policy, and strategic document plus other strategic development policies, including the Ramsar Convention.

Climate action has been prioritized in the country’s National Development Strategy 1 (NDS 1), which includes enhancing early warning systems, fostering climate-wise innovations, and technology transfer, as well as mainstreaming climate change and related financing in all national programs.

It also aims to improve climate change adaptation and mitigation capacity and knowledge, as well as upgrade meteorological radar seismology and weather station networks, among other things.

Because of the strong vertical and backward links, Zimbabwe is sensitive to climate change due to its geographical location in the tropics. If the agricultural sector sneezes, the economy develops a cold.

As a developing country, Zimbabwe is affected by the effects of industrialization-induced climate change.

Government investment in mitigation is modest, and, as is the case in many LDCs, it is skewed toward debt servicing, undermining climate finance.

Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) practices are beset by challenges, according to a study published in the journal Cogent Social Sciences on understanding climate-smart agriculture and the resilience of smallholder farmers in the Umguza district. The study found that CSA practices are beset by challenges, pointing to the government’s lack of a clear and coordinated policy and financing for CSA.

Experts have called for climate change financing to be important in fighting and mitigating climate change effects, and discussions at the last Zimbabwe debt indaba highlighted the gap between climate financing and agricultural activities.

It has been a tall assignment for developing countries like Zimbabwe.

While there were many options available for climate change financing, challenges like debt financing have been a stumbling block for Zimbabwe.

Climate Change and Energy Governance lead Byron Zamasiya this week said developing countries were spending five times more on debt servicing than on climate action and this was expected to rise to seven times, creating more loans, interest charges and exacerbating the debt burden for developing countries.

Zamasiya was presenting on climate justice and debt sustainability: leveraging debt sustainability to strengthen Zimbabwe’s climate change response at the just-ended Zimbabwe Debt Indaba in the capital.

“Developed countries are pushing for more funds for mitigation while developing countries are pushing for more funds for adaptation. But Africa only emits 7% of the greenhouse gases (GHGs). Does mitigation make sense?” he asked.

“Developing countries should push for unconditional access to climate finance from bilateral and multilateral financial institutions (preference should be grants and not loans). The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change should promote debt swaps for developing countries, especially when they meet commitments in the nationally determined contributions (NDCs).

“Developing countries endowed with transition minerals (such as lithium, copper, nickel and cobalt) should promote local value addition.”

Developed countries had a target of raising US$100 billion for climate finance in the 2016-2020 period and priority was on mitigation at a time financiers preferred loans and not grants.

They were then supposed to write proposals and access this money for adaptation and mitigation.

For Zimbabwe, these projects are outlined in NDCs, NDS 1, and Low Emissions Development Strategy.

Zamasiya said generally, there was an increase in loans from bilateral and multilateral financiers, but since the money is accessed as loans, it was difficult for developing countries like Zimbabwe to access it due to the poor macroeconomic environment and high debt risk given that Paris Club members also influence access to such finances.

However, there is a consensus that despite these challenges, developing countries need to access climate finance for climate action.

Senior economist Ojijo Odhlambo of the United Nations Development Programme, speaking at the same climate change response indaba, said Zimbabwe should consider green climate sustainability bonds, which are conventional bonds raised in domestic or international capital markets and the proceeds of which are used for projects that generate environmental benefits.

According to him, these are becoming a more important source of green money as investors gradually commit to making responsible investments.

“These are high-yield financial products meant to raise money for insurance companies in the case of a natural disaster,” Odhlambo explained. “The issuer receives funding from the bond only if certain conditions, such as earthquakes or tornadoes, materialize.”

“On the other side, climate risk insurance is intended to safeguard individuals, small enterprises, and entire countries from the long-term effects of catastrophic weather events.” In the short term, such a program enhances financial resilience by allowing funds to be disbursed quickly in the event of an emergency, and in the long run, it can help to reduce disaster risk.”

As an agro-based economy, Zimbabwe relies on climate-sensitive services for food income and economic growth.

Securing funding to help alleviate the consequences of climate change, on the other hand, will aid the southern African nation in combating the negative effects and ensuring food security in the long run.