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Climate change in rural Zimbabwe: an assessment of the influences of gender in smallholding and its contribution towards adaptation to climate change in rural Zimbabwe

Musiyiwa, Kumbirai (2014) Climate change in rural Zimbabwe: an assessment of the influences of gender in smallholding and its contribution towards adaptation to climate change in rural Zimbabwe. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.


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Multiple stressors that include climatic and non-climatic constraints negatively impact rain-fed smallholder productivity and livelihoods in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Global circulation models predict temperature increases of about 3C by the middle of the century. Impacts of warmer climates on rain-fed smallholder production are projected to be mainly negative. Female-headed households (FHHs) constitute between 30% and 40% of households in smallholder areas of Zimbabwe. Access to resources and capital assets required for agricultural production often varies between male-headed households (MHHs) and FHHs. Differences in resource levels and roles of men and women imply different vulnerabilities and adaptation requirements to climate change for MHHs and FHHs. Mainstreaming gender in climate change planning is thus imperative for successful adaptation by MHHs and FHHs. There is, however, limited information on gendered differences in smallholder practices and outcomes arising from differently managed households in Zimbabwe, which is required for climate change planning. This study therefore sought to assess how the gender of household head affects smallholdings and adaptation to climate change in rural Zimbabwe using climate analogue analysis. The analogue pair sites selected had similar annual rainfall totals but differed by 2-4oC in mean annual temperature. The sites were Kadoma (722mm, 21.8oC) expected to represent Mazowe/Goromonzi (842.9mm, 18.2oC) for sub-humid areas and Chiredzi (541mm, 21.3oC) hypothesized to represent Matobo (567mm, 18.4C) for semi-arid areas following the effects of global warming by the 2050s. Household surveys, participatory evaluations and focus group discussions were conducted during the 2010/2011 and 2012/2013 rain seasons. Household demographic and socio-economic characteristics, farmer perceived stressors to production, and management strategies in MHHs and FHHs were assessed at each study site. Resources that included financial capital and adult male labour were fewer, and education levels lower in FHHs than MHHs at the study sites. Crop production was the main source of income in FHHs at all the study sites. Meanwhile, in Kadoma, Mazowe/Goromonzi and Matobo districts, MHHs had more diverse sources of income. At each study site, crop choices, soil fertility, and soil and water management strategies in MHHs and FHHs were similar. However, quantities of inputs including fertilizer rates and share of area allocated to crops differed. Consequently, in Mazowe/Goromonzi and Matobo districts, crop yields were lower in FHHs compared to MHHs. Additionally, in Mazowe/Goromonzi, Kadoma, and Matobo districts, more FHHs than MHHs were food insecure. Climatic stressors to agricultural production of analogue pair sites differed. At the sub-humid analogue pair sites, maize was the main crop grown. However, management practices differed. At the semi-arid sites, more farmers in Chiredzi compared to Matobo grew small grains. Maize yields were lower at the warmer analogue sites compared to the reference sites. This study demonstrates that resource levels and resource-based forms of management differ by gender of household head, and MHHs and FHHs have different requirements for adaptation to current and future climates.

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