Coping With Droughts and Floods in the Middle Zambezi Valley: A case study of Kanyemba, Mbire District
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Water related extreme events like drought and floods have become recurrent in Kanyemba. Low rainfall totals, combined with intra-season dry-spells, are responsible for low yields. Heavy rain within a short period and reservoirs operation also affect households through loss of land planted due to floods. In this environment, households which rely on agriculture have to adjust their activities to cope with such events. This study investigated the perceptions of households on the pattern of rainfall, droughts and floods over 23 years, the impacts of floods and droughts on households and how households cope with these events. The research was conducted in Kanyemba which is in Lower Middle Zambezi Valley’s Manyame catchment in Zambezi river basin. The area is a rural ward in Mbire district in Zimbabwe’s Natural Region 5, which is semi-arid and receives on average 450-650mm of rainfall per annum. The research was conducted using both quantitative and qualitative research techniques. A case study approach was taken. Data collection was done using semi-structured interviews, focus group discussions and structured questionnaires which were administered to 144 households. To substantiate this data, an analysis of rainfall variability and Cahora Bassa water level over 23 years was performed. The study found that perceptions of households are that total amount of rainfall received in the area has gone down, while the frequency of dry-spells and flood events has increased in the last two decades. Rainfall variability analysis revealed that the amount of rainfall between 1988 and 2011 has not changed but the frequency of dry-spells and floods has increased. Floods occurrence was linked to heavy local rain and backflow from Cahora Bassa dam. The study found that from 1988 to 2011 Kanyemba experienced flooding six times. About 70% of crop season have been affected by the dry-spells of 20 days. Dry-spells and floods, which occur during the crop-growing period reduced crop production by about 65%. The study found that households have adopted a number of strategies to address droughts and flood impacts. Vegetable farming and crop production in the floodplain, wage earning locally, planting late and livestock disposals were common coping strategies. Some households also resorted to out-migration on a daily basis to Zambia or Mozambique. The study concludes that coping mechanisms used by households were not sufficient to cope with floods and droughts impacts. The study recommends the implementation of adaptation measures such as the use of drought-resistant crops varieties, irrigation and off-farm employment opportunities to enable households to deal with floods and droughts.