Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

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Whither Zim Met Department

Whither Zim Met Department – The Standard


“World-class meteorological, climatologically and seismological products and services (that) are timely, affordable, easily accessible and understood by all anytime and anywhere within and outside Zimbabwe,” reads the vision of Zimbabwe’s Meteorological Services Department.

By Kennedy Nyavaya

The reality, however, gives different echoes. the Met Department has appeared to serve little to no use to the people largely as a result of inaccuracies and delays in giving weather forecasts.

This has had a negative impact on future planning purposes and farmers have been the worst affected.

“The Met Department has done too little to prepare the farmer for planning especially the smallholder farmer,” agribusiness consultant and development practitioner Ngonidzashe Kativu told The Standard.

Kativu, who cited the dry El Nino experienced in 2016, followed by La Nina last year as examples, believes the organisation’s seasonal forecasts left much to be desired given the mishaps that locals still face as a result of weather extremes and lack of adequate information to adapt.

“Be it fears of being wrong or lack of technology to provide accurate long-term weather predictions, those that are most vulnerable to weather phenomenon and vagaries, smallholder farmers, were at a loss,” he said.

In emailed responses, the department’s spokesperson Tich Zinyemba acknowledged that in addition to using old equipment, they were incapacitated by lack of human capital and finances, which “compromises the quality of products and efficiency of the department as a whole”.

“Some equipment at the MSD is now more than 100 years old and no longer reliable. Yet, the data and information it produces remains indispensable to policy and strategy formulation in face of climate change,” he said.

Zinyemba said he believed the department, which he ironically said boasts of a convincing record of accurate information, had done well given the straining circumstances.
“In spite of these challenges, however, the department remains steadfast in its quest to provide reliable meteorological and seismological information,” he said, adding that government had made a commitment to retool their services.

“We are happy that the government, as an ongoing process to recapitalise the department, has now provided resources for the purchasing of five weather surveillance radars,” he said.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe, which has not been spared by the stress of climate change: a shift in the statistical distribution of weather patterns for an extended period of time (i.e decades to millions of years), will this Friday join the world in celebrating World Meteorological Day, which is a focus on the input that National Meteorological and Hydrological Services make to the safety and well-being of society.

This Friday marks World Meteorological Day, which focuses on the input that National Meteorological and Hydrological Services make to the safety and well-being of society.
Running under the theme Weather-Ready, Climate-Smart, the day will bring the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) to the fore in recognition of the laudable efforts they have put in place to forecast the rampant changing weather patterns.

WMO is the United Nations’ authoritative voice on weather, climate and water.

According to an article on their website, WMO and National Meteorological and Hydrological Services’ mandate is to protect lives, livelihoods and property from the risks related to weather, climate and water events.

“Thereby, WMO and its members support the global agenda on sustainable development, climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction,” the article, whose work revolves around daily weather forecasts to long-term climate predictions, reads.

WMO posits that early warning systems and other disaster risk reduction measures are vital for boosting the resilience of our communities.

“The World Meteorological Organisation plays a crucial role in contributing to people’s safety and welfare. Its work is important in providing food security, water resources and transport,” the World Health Organisation said last year.

Locally, perhaps climate change has also played a part in fuelling inaccuracies at the Met Department, but that hardly stands as defence given the influx of new precise technologies.

“Climate change has a fair part to play in the inaccuracies, but one that is fairly smaller and less significant, as opposed to that of technology and forecast systems, which, in this case, is attributed to the Met Department,” Kativu said.

Some farmers across the country have had to depend on foreign updates, especially from neighbouring South Africa, in their planning during cropping

“The first step would be to invest more into meteorological technologies and systems and to spread these technologies across the country,” Kativu suggests.

“The second would be to invest in new mechanisms and strengthen those already in place to ensure that farmers not only get access to the information, but also know how to effectively use it for planning purposes.”

The nation has had a fair share of devastating climate change catastrophes, be it droughts that lead to crop failure or flooding that leads to loss of life, among other tragedies signalling urgent need for meteorological services.

This is notwithstanding that there is also definite need for climate-smart technologies that help enhance climate risk management in agriculture as well as other economic sectors.

Going forward, the local Met Department may have to step up as efforts to provide accurate and timely services to restore confidence and also assist in effective planning.


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