The September Newsletter

International Day of Peace 2019

“Climate Action for Peace”

“Today peace faces a new danger: the climate emergency, which threatens our security, our livelihoods and our lives. That is why it is the focus of this year’s International Day of Peace. And it’s why I am convening a Climate Action Summit.” — UN Secretary-General António Guterres

The United Nations Member States adopted the 17 Sustainable Development Goals in 2015 because they understood that it would not be possible to build a peaceful world if steps were not taken to achieve economic and social development for all people everywhere, and ensure that their rights were protected.  The Sustainable Goals cover a broad range of issues, including poverty, hunger, health, education, climate change, gender equality, water, sanitation, energy, environment and social justice.

Sustainable Development Goal 13 “Climate Action” is a call for immediate action by all to lower greenhouse emissions, build resilience and improve education on climate change. Affordable, scalable solutions such as renewable energy, clean technologies are available to enable countries to leapfrog to greener, more resilient economies.

 The theme draws attention to the importance of combating climate change as a way to protect and promote peace throughout the world. Climate change causes clear threats to international peace and security. Natural disasters displace three times as many people as conflicts, forcing millions to leave their homes and seek safety elsewhere. The salinization of water and crops is endangering food security, and the impact on public health is escalating. The growing tensions over resources and mass movements of people are affecting every country on every continent. Peace can only be achieved if concrete action is taken to combat climate change. 

Climate Change: A Key Driver of Human-Animal Conflict in Zimbabwe

ZIMBABWE Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) director-general Fulton Mangwanya speaking before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Environment and Tourism in June 2019 said there is a spike in human-wildlife conflict. Twenty seven people were killed by wild animals across Zimbabwe during the first quarter of 2015 whilst fifteen sustained injuries at varying degrees. Of the 86 recorded cases of elephant attacks on humans in Zimbabwe, only one of those was fatal. Lions killed mostly cattle and goats, a combined 118 in total, robbing people of crucial draught power. The real human hunter was the crocodile, which mauled down 22 people. However, with 66 cases of lion attacks on humans or human settlements reported in just three months, that number is notoriously high. Many conflicts go unreported, but the highest number of those reported occurred in southern and western Zimbabwe,

Zimbabwe has not been spared from the effects of global warming. According to the meteorological services of Zimbabwe, since 1987 the country has experienced its six warmest years on record, with daily minimum and maximum temperatures having risen by approximately 2°C over the past century. This has seen the country experience extremes of weather over the past two decades. The country has had to deal with 10 droughts, decreased freshwater and destroyed biodiversity. Research indicates that surface water resources within the country will reduce significantly by 2080, which will place a great part of Zimbabwe’s population at risk of water shortages. In districts such as Beitbridge the effects of climate change are already being hard felt by poor rural communities. In areas such as Ndambe, Masera, Chituripasi, Dite and Shashe rainfall patterns have declined drastically and the few open water sources have begun drying up even in the early months of the rainy season. As a result wildlife such as elephants and hyena has become so bold as to encroach into the human settlements in search of the scarce water resources as well as food. For these poor communal farmers the losses have been huge as they are losing what little crops not ravaged by drought and small livestock such as goats. This has fuelled human-animal conflict; more so as the state appears to protect the wildlife at the expense of the communal farmers. With climate change set to worsen water scarcity and increase food security it is inevitable that the conflict will continue to gain momentum.

For local peace committees in Beitbridge district the human-animal conflict poses significant challenges as the conventional conflict management mechanisms of negotiation, dialogue and mediation are not particularly relevant. As a result ECLF is working with the local peace committees to identify alternative conflict management approaches but what is clear is that there is a need to develop the practical capacities of community members to deal with the animal threats. Avenues worth exploration are partnerships with organizations such as the Painted Dog Conservancy which provide capacity building and training on how to deter wild animals such as elephants without putting oneself at risk such as Planting chilli peppers or paprika with food garden and field crops, using strong flashlights, spotlights, or floodlights at night to deter night raids, planting crops that elephants do not like, changing the timing of planting or harvesting and keeping crops clustered together.

Communal farmers are left counting their losses as hyenas attack their goat herds

Low rainfall has compromised food security in most rural communities but marauding elephants are also adding to the burden by invading crop fields

Communities Addressing Local Environmental Challenges

Deforestation is an important factor in global climate change and is argued to be the second leading cause of global warming as it produces about 24% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Scientists say that deforestation in tropical rainforests adds more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere than the sum total of all the cars and trucks on the world’s roads. Climate change is because of a buildup of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere and if we carry on cutting down the main tool we have to diminish this carbon dioxide build up, we can expect the climate of our planet to change dramatically over the next decades. It is estimated that more than 1.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide are released to the atmosphere due to deforestation, mainly the cutting and burning of forests, every year. Over 30 million acres of forests and woodlands are lost every year due to deforestation; causing a massive loss of income to poor people living in remote areas who depend on the forest to survive.

Conflict in natural resources management is inevitable, granted that there are different uses of resources, different users, interests and value systems. Ashby (1998) identifies a number of causes of conflict which include, inter alia: stakeholders with livelihood use for natural resources being excluded from use and/or from decisions about the use of the resources; inequitable access to scarce or degrading resources; unprecedented increase in the rates of extraction; interventions at inappropriate scales; traditional ways of sharing resources being undermined by governments; and lack of clarity about boundaries, access, use rights and responsibilities. 

The forests of Matabeleland North Province, Zimbabwe present one such natural resource management conflict; with the source of conflict being identified as twofold – biomass and land conflicts (forests, agriculture, fisheries and livestock management) and also deforestation, logging and non timber extraction.

Indigenous hardwood forests in the Midlands and Matabeleland North provinces are part of the Kalahari sand region which extends into the Botswana and Namibian arid regions. In Zimbabwe these two regions are home to very precious forests which comprise of teak (Baikiaea Plurijuga), mahogany (Guibortia coleosperma), mukwa (Pterocaspus angolensis) and other indigenous hardwoods such as wooden banana, Leadwood and white seringa (Kirkia Acuminata).  Thousands of people invaded these forests during the land reform program between 2000 and 2007 and started logging the timber for curing tobacco or simply inviting international companies to come and log for a fee. Politicians in the region have also been fingered in the scandal which may be depriving the country of revenue in excess of 10 million dollars annually. It is estimated that Zimbabwe could be losing as much as 300 000 ha of indigenous hardwood forests annually. The situation is exacerbated by illegal settlers who often start veldt fires whilst on hunting expeditions. Some of the trees are sensitive to fires and have a slow recovery rate. Thus both government and the communities are losing out as international companies and corrupt individuals are benefiting from chaos.

The visible environmental impacts of this conflict are massive and include: air pollution, biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), desertification/drought, fires, food insecurity (crop damage), global warming, loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, noise pollution, soil contamination, soil erosion, deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, surface water pollution/decreasing water (physic-chemical, biological) quality, groundwater pollution or depletion, large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity. The socio-economic impacts are also significant and include increase in corruption/co-optation of different actors, displacement, increase in violence and crime, loss of livelihood, loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, specific impacts on women, land dispossession, loss of landscape/sense of place.

Illegal timber logging in Gwampa Forest, Nkayi

As a result of this conflict environmental justice is not being served because the communities in the affected areas are not well organised to put up a serious challenge to government and the extracting firms and some are participating in illegal cutting of the hardwood and setting the forests on fire during hunting expeditions.  Therefore as part of its peace building interventions in Nkayi district which is one of the districts affected by this conflict, ECLF is working closely with the local peace committees in order to identify positive ways of managing this conflict. One such approach is to encourage community participation in the management and exploitation of the forests and this is being achieved through the inclusion of local peace committee members in various resource management committees (CAMPFIRE Committees) and community level decision making bodies (WADCOs and VIDCOs) to lobby for negative environmental practices to be addressed as well as influence decision making at upper echelons so that the voice of the communal/rural community member is also taken into consideration. These processes support the new stance by Zimbabwe’s government on the devolution of power as stipulated in the Zimbabwean Constitution Amendment (No. 20) Act 2013 provides the framework for devolution of governmental powers and responsibilities in Section 264. Section 264 of the Constitution provides for the devolution of Government powers and responsibilities to, among other things, “recognise the right of communities to manage their own affairs and to further their development” and is expected to expected to enhance participatory governance for local development while localising resource exploitation and spending for local economies.