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Mainstreaming climate change adaptation in Zimbabwe’s extension system

Farmers in Zimbabwe face many uncertainties, economically and politically as well as environmentally. They are increasingly being affected by changes in weather patterns. They lack information on climate change and climate variability, making it difficult for them to make informed decisions over the most appropriate agricultural practices. Practical Action works to build capacities in order to enable farmers to take account of climate risks and adapt to future climate change in order to build better, stronger, and more resilient livelihoods.

We worked with the national agricultural extension service to enable extension staff to better understand the impacts of climate change on local agriculture. This in turn enabled them to provide better advice to farmers.

Archive content: This project has been completed, and the information is retained here for archive purposes. Current project work in Southern Africa can be found here.

The project 'Mainstreaming climate change adaptation in Zimbabwe’s Extension System' was funded by the Nuffield Africa Foundation. It started on the 1st September 2011. This project was implemented jointly by Practical Action UK, Practical Action Southern Africa, University of Reading, with partners Department of Agricultural, Technical and Extension Services (AGRITEX).

The project aimed to integrate climate change adaptation in the Department of Agricultural, Technical and Extension Services (AGRITEX) who are mandated to deliver agricultural extension in Zimbabwe.

Practical Action and the University of Reading worked with AGRITEX to directly train 60 of their national and provincial level subject matter specialists (SMSs) as trainers of 170 other district level professionals in the 3 provinces of the country through the existing Training Branch in-service programme.

Trained extension professionals, in turn, were able to improve the capabilities of smallholder farmers to respond to climate change. The project responded to massive brain drain of experienced agricultural extension professionals in the past decade as a result of socio-economic and political challenges experienced in the country. Practical Action and the University of Reading applied their global experiences in Climate Change Adaptation, research in agriculture and meteorological services in developing countries.

The overall goal was to mainstream climate change adaptation in agricultural extension systems of Zimbabwe so that agricultural extension staff could facilitate smallholder farmers to adapt to, and cope better with climate variability and change. Zimbabwe was facing increased weather variability, most notable less rainfall. The project built the technical capacities of the national agricultural extension system through three specific objectives:

  • Updated knowledge and awareness among AGRITEX staff on climate change and variability and the impact on agriculture.
  • Improved skills among AGRITEX Subject Matter Specialists (SMSs) in promoting climate change adaptation strategies in agriculture.
  • Wider uptake and application of the climate change adaptation training programme through backstopping and support to AGRITEX Subject Matter Specialists in training frontline staff.

The project targeted Matabeleland South, Midlands and Masvingo provinces as lead provinces where Practical Action had already established strong working relationships. Thus the project aimed to directly train 60 SMSs who would then train 170 other extension professionals in AGRITEX. This training would enable the provincial and district SMSs and Extension Officers to effectively train and support all the 1,560 Agricultural Extension Workers within the three targeted provinces who work with farmers on a daily basis and pass down knowledge on climate change to those who need it most.

Photos: The course participants in Gweru and Harare

Project update

The first workshops were held in Gweru and Harare and both have recieved positive feedback from participants. The first course was entitled 'Understanding climate change, climate variability and the implications for agriculture' 

Day 1: Views on climate change in Zimbabwe and Group work

Day 2: Understanding historic data and concepts of climate variability and change

Day 3: Using crop models (crop models transform climate risk into crop growth and yileld risks)

Day 4: Discussions on climate change in Zimbabwe, understanding adaptive capacity and scenario planning.

Day 5: Group work discussing priorities for AGRITEX to help smallholder farmers.

For anyone who would like further details please see the course site (you will have to register to access the Moodle site)

Photo: Opening remarks by the Director of AGRITEX (Technical) Mr Bernard Mache.

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