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Climate change and Covid-19: A double tragedy for rural women

A dry borehole in Chimanimani West Ward 20

The outbreak of Covid-19 further worsened the plight of women in rural areas, where the impact of climate change on the social and well-being of women was already taking its toll. Rural women who constitute 80 percent of the total national population of women who have been experiencing the impacts of climate change before the outbreak of the pandemic are suffering from a double blow as Covid-19 worsened their burden.

The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks report, before the outbreak of the Covid-19, placed climate-related risks at the top of 10 global threats.

Speaking to TellZim News, Shamiso Mupara an environmentalist and the founder of Environmental Buddies Zimbabwe (EBZ) that operates in Marange, Manicaland province said in rural areas women are the main victims of climate change because it affects their natural resource base and it has been worsened by the Covid-19.


“Most Zimbabwean cultural norms burden rural women with the responsibility to provide food (relish), fuel, and water. Mostly they depend on natural resources for their livelihoods. Therefore these women are affected by climate change because it affects the natural resources, for example, water scarcity is caused by extremely hot temperatures and droughts. In this covid-19 era women are forced to travel long distances many times to fetch clean water,” she said. 

Covid-19 is intensifying the problems created by climate change on rural women whose food security systems and livelihood options are ruined.

Tatenda Mutasa from the Climate Change Management Department in the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Tourism and Hospitality Industry said rural women depend on agriculture for food security and if agriculture is affected by climate change, people need to diversify their livelihoods by venturing into other activities to sustain their incomes which are however hindered by Covid-19 regulations.


If agriculture is affected by climate change, women need to diversify their livelihoods and venture into other forms of livelihood activities like clay pot making but others do not have the skills and those who have the skills do not have the capital to do such projects. Those who can do such activities especially in this Covid-19 era are not able to travel to urban and other areas to sell their products due to Covid-19-induced travel restrictions. 

When there is no enough income at the household level, there is a problem. This season agriculture was not bad in some rural areas but in some, they did not harvest well and this is a burden to those women in such areas. Also due to the Covid-19 travel restrictions they cannot travel to areas that harvested well to get food,” Mutasa said.

Mutasa added that women are the pillars of most households but if they are impacted negatively it means everything is distracted.

“Rural women need to make sure that there is enough food, clean water at the house and also make sure that children are safe and protected from the Covid-19 virus. The burden of water and firewood fetching owing to climate change that ruined the natural resources base forces, rural women, to walk for long distances which in most cases can expose them to the risk of infection,” he added.


Top 10 global risks by likelihood (before Covid-19)

Mutasa also said that rural women need more support from different stakeholders so they can sustain their livelihoods, especially during this Covid-19 period. 

“There is a serious burden among the rural women that need people to work together as rural women need support. Some women are business-minded and can run businesses but they do not have capital. They also need to be educated and make them aware of the changes in the climate system,” he said.

In some rural areas, people travel long distances to get water, one can travel 1,5 to 2 km to the nearest water source during the dry season.

Role of rural women in agriculture

Villagers of the Mabhiza area in ward 23 of Chivi South travel for more than 2km to go to Mutumbwi Dam where there is a borehole, as a result, people will not be able to provide enough safe water to their handwashing points popularly known as Chigubhu giya in the area which was recently launched as a way to curb the spread of the pandemic.

Engaging the donor community and the government to help the villagers by drilling boreholes as a way of addressing the water shortages would go a long way in alleviating some of the impact of climate change and the Covid 19 pandemic on rural women.


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Chief Editor: Earnest Mudzengi Content Editor: Willie Gwatimba