Assessing socio-economic impacts of drought and coping mechanisms: a case study on Musikavanhu area, Chipinge District, Zimbabwe
Mtetwa, Rumbidzai Patience
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Droughts and desertification are some of the major challenges that threaten sustainable development globally and food and nutrition security in developing countries. In Africa drought is part of the natural climatic variability and countries on the continent are vulnerable to the adverse impacts of drought because their economies are agriculture based. Multidimensional responses are needed to support communities in the face of a changing climate that is continuously exposing communities to shocks such as drought. Strong institutional capacity is essential for drought mitigation and response to prevent the negative social and economic impacts on vulnerable populations. This study assesses the socio economic impacts of the 2015/16 El Nino induced drought and identifies coping mechanisms, preparedness and response mechanisms that were employed in the Musikavanhu area in the Chipinge district of Manicaland Province of Zimbabwe. The Musikavanhu area is prone to drought and has an erratic rainfall pattern characterized by dry spells. Frequent droughts are making it harder and harder for households to cope with each drought occurrence. It is important to understand how rural households, during periods of drought, cope in order to determine how best to implement micro level efforts to support households as part of risk management and resilience building. Data for the research was collected using quantitative and qualitative methods through household interviews, key informant interviews and focus group discussions. A descriptive analysis was conducted, which characterized households according to their demographics, household income and assets, socio economic impacts of the drought, household based coping strategies; livelihood based coping strategies, preparedness and response mechanisms. Results showed that, to a large extent, households in the Musikavanhu community were negatively impacted by the drought and experienced yield loss, hunger, loss of livelihoods, food shortages, and loss of livestock, depleted water sources and school drop-outs among other effects. Some of these impacts influenced the coping mechanisms that were adopted, which include selling of livestock, pulling children out of school, reduction of meals, selling of assets and begging for food from neighbours and friends. Results also showed that households that were better off before the drought and had better capabilities and assets managed to bounce back quicker and better than others. In terms of preparedness and response, there is a need to capacitate households on drought risk reduction through training and sensitization, so that they are able to deal with the effects of drought. The study recommends strengthening the absorptive capacities of households in order to improve the stability of households when drought occurs through improving knowledge on disaster risk management, access to informal safety nets and savings. The study also recommends that support should be provided to encourage livelihood diversification, asset rehabilitation, protection and accumulation at both household and community levels.