Zimbabwe has, over the years, grappled with insistent climate crisis, which have led to erratic rainfall patterns characterised by either severe floods or prolonged periods of drought.

The nation has experienced persistent concerning trend of numerous regions reporting rainfall levels below the usual during what should be “normal” years.

El Niño have been forecasted for 2023-2024 rainfall season, which is associated with drier-than-average rainfall.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) confirmed a strong El Niño event occurring between October 2023 and March 2024.

The event is expected to have adverse effects on rainfall from October 2023 to March 2024, potentially leading to drought conditions in Zimbabwe.

Anticipated outcomes include a delayed onset of rainfall and prolonged dry spells, which could significantly impact food production and disrupt the food supply chain.

Regions with typically lower precipitation levels are particularly susceptible to experiencing drought, which may result in widespread crop loss, livestock fatalities, increased disease incidence, crop pests, and challenges related to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH).

These challenges, in turn, can have cascading negative effects on nutrition.

Farmers in Zimbabwe have already started to witness the devastating effects of El Niño as plants are drying beyond redemption in farms.

Crops are wilting and all hope is lost even if rains may come, the crops will never survive.

El Niño is expected to intensify aridity, significantly impacting food and animal production across many areas, including those typically classified as “dry regions.”

The term El Niño, is Spanish for ‘the Christ Child’ refers to a warming of the ocean surface, or above-average sea surface temperatures, in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean.

The ripple effects of the El Niño-induced drought permeates various sectors of the economy, with adverse impacts on manufacturing and energy industries.

Nonetheless, the most severely affected sectors will remain food and nutrition, agriculture, water, education, health, and wildlife.

Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector heavily relies on rainfall for crop production, making it particularly vulnerable to the adverse impacts of El Niño-induced low rainfall season.

During this period, reduced precipitation and increased temperatures exacerbate drought and heat stress risks, leading to the following significant challenges for farmers: Reduced crop yields, especially maize: Insufficient rainfall and prolonged dry spells negatively affect crop yields, resulting in lower productivity and compromised food security.

Crops such as maize, a staple in Zimbabwe, are particularly susceptible to drought stress, reducing yields and causing potential crop failure.

Zimbabwean economy is an agrarian based one and with the effects of El Niño starting to take effect, more than half of the population who survive on farming are going to feel the full brunt of drought.

Prices of commodities are likely to rise especially raw material from crops as there will be a shortage of supply coupled with high demand.

With around 95 percent of the 15 million population unemployed, the consequences of El Niño induced drought will have dire consequences to the nation as there will be low buying power for little expensive goods available.

The Government of Zimbabwe is implored to make timely intervention by distributing free food to the more deserving people.

Hoarding of goods especially maize should be penalised in situations such as this.

The government should start to look around for the staple crop from other nations before the situation goes out of hand.

School children in drought striken areas should be fed at schools so as to reduce the number of school dropouts due to hunger.

Diseases associated with hunger are likely to increase among infants due to drought, programmes should start rolling to assist non school going infants and brest feeding poor mothers with food aid.

A holistic approach to fight El Niño induced drought should be taken and a stakeholder approach is the best way to tackle the scourge.

Animals are in for a prolonged season of little water, care should be taken to drill boreholes in arid areas both for animal and human consumption.

Corruption in its various form and facets should be shunned as the nation fights one of the devastating pandemic.

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