PESPECTIVE: Spendthrift foolish, frugality wise


Stephen Mpofu
Zimbabweans and other people in Southern Africa and elsewhere on this continent must brace for worse as the El Nino-driven drought is set to wreck havoc, weather experts predict.

The El Nino — a weather cycle caused by the warming of waters in the Pacific Ocean and unleashing warm global weather patterns — has been described by scientists as “a normal weather phenomenon”. The phenomenon has caused incessant floods and recurrent droughts in Zimbabwe and in other African states.

But in separate comments to the world press the weather scientists from the Western hemisphere and India have warned that should the global warming menace remain unabated the weather scourge “will intensify the El Nino”, thereby aggravating conditions in Southern and Eastern Africa where millions are running short of food or have been displaced by both weather conditions, with Unicef calling for consented efforts to save children now affected by “severe, acute malnutrition”.

What is even worse, these same scientists say that developed countries now appeared to be reneging on an undertaking they made at the recent United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris to reduce greenhouse emissions that have dangerously thinned the ozone layer, thereby exposing earth to violent rays of the sun and resulting in global warming which has left both human beings and livestock at greater risks of decimation by arbitral weather conditions.

In response to the drought that has prevented cropping or wiped out what crops had sprouted out particularly in Southern Zimbabwe, the government last year imported maize from Zambia in an effort to replenish seriously-dwindling food stocks, in an apparent bid to make good its assertion that “no Zimbabwean should die of hunger”.

Earlier this week, Cde Joseph Made, Minister of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development, announced that government had mobilised $260 million to import grain as part of its efforts to avert hunger.

Cde Made also said millers had been given permits to import 1.2 million tonnes of maize to augment government efforts, but that they had imported 450,000 tonnes only.

The weather scientists suggested a cocktail of measures for drought-infested countries to take to avert calamities with El Nino weather conditions likely to last long or worsen, as global warming remains untamed – and this was likely to be the case with the notorious global polluters from the developed nations continuing to pussyfoot on the Paris agreement to curb carbon emissions into an atmosphere the same people have already rendered too vulnerable to scorching heat waves.

Governments should take such measures as will ensure adequate food baskets to populations ravaged by droughts or floods or by both these conditions, the scientists recommended.

Furthermore, they said governments should ensure that food grains appropriate and resistant to droughts were grown in areas that remained fickle under adverse weather abnormalities.

In that regard, while the government is taking commendable measures to fill the bellies of Zimbabweans with the imported staple maize, the State might wish seriously to promote the growing of drought-resistant food crops, such as, sorghum, millet and pearl millet, even under irrigation where water reservoirs remain undepleted by the drought or by irresponsible water use by humans.

Also, in the food crisis that looms in the event of global warming continuing to whip up floods and droughts, it is probably also incumbent on Zimbabwean scientists to research other food crops, such as cassava and the like, for production to anchor those crops that have become synonymous with the Zimbabwean diet.

But not only that. Zimbabweans must stop behaving like caterpillars, for instance, that engage in orgies of consumption of leaves including new shoots without sparing some for the morrow.

In rural areas, for instance, if one cleans up one’s dish of pap one is considered to be still hungry. This is why you (yes you) find that dinner tables are littered with dishes towering with smoking hillocks of food.

If one does not demolish the entire helping, one is considered to have satiated one’s hunger and the leftover is discarded outside to feed dogs and chickens.

Similar food wastage is often seen during harvests in the field or in the storage of food grain. It therefore becomes an absolute necessity for people to develop a habit to conserve what little food comes their way for tomorrow.

Thus, frugality becomes both a necessity and a virtue.

The powers that be might decide to consider any worsening drought as a wartime-like situation, necessitating strict supervision of agriculture to sustain what little production of food is necessary for the nation.

This state of affairs should continue until such a time as the country crosses the Rubicon and the communal farmers, in particular, may then reclaim their carte blanche rights to grow food crops of their choice.

This pen fears that should the drought worsen, it might eventually unleash an unprecedented urban drift as starving villagers join their working relatives in towns and cities. Such sudden burgeoning urban populations will seriously strain health and water facilities, not to mention accommodation challenges with a possibility of squatter camps mushrooming here and there with unhealthy crowded living conditions under which disease outbreaks might sweep through such illegal settlements, like a veld fire.

But — who knows — connoisseurs of life-as-usual might rush to describe this pen as an inconsequential scarecrow.

Yet it is foolhardy of any skeptic to dismiss the saying: “to be forewarned is to be forearmed” as a day dream.

As such, municipalities should not be caught unawares by surges of rural folk escaping hunger from cold heath stones in the villages and swirled by hordes of Zimbabweans returning home from a diaspora where their farm work has been ruined by persistent drought. Returnees from countries over the border where crime is rife especially pose security risks as they might deploy their imported criminal expertise to try to earn a living and in that way worsen the crime rate in Zimbabwe.

The police and other security agents should seriously monitor the situation to protect peace-and law-abiding Zimbabwean citizens.

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