The outbreak of Covid-19 has doubled the plight of rural folk, where the impact of climate change on the socio-economic state of women continues to take its toll.
Rural women who have been hard hit by climate change before the outbreak of the pandemic are being dealt another major blow as Covid-19 worsened their day to day living standards.
The latest World Economic Forum’s Global Risks report, before the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic ranked climaterelated risks at the helm of 10 global threats.
Speaking to TellZim News, Shamiso Mupara an Environmentalist and founder of Environmental Buddies Zimbabwe (EBZ) said rural women who have been grossly affected by climate change are enduring a rough patch at the hands of Covid-19.
“Most Zimbabwean cultural norms burden women with the responsibility to provide food (relish), fuel and water. Mostly, they depend on natural resources for their livelihoods. Therefore, rural 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 in rural areas are forced to travel long distances many times to fetch clean water,” she said.
Tatenda Mutasa an official from the Ministry of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry said rural women depend on agriculture for food security and if agriculture is affected by climate change rural women now need to diversify their livelihoods by venturing into other activities so as to sustain their incomes, which are however affected 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. 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 Covid19-induced travel restrictions,” he said.
Mutasa added that women are the pillars of most households, but if they are impacted on 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 force rural women to walk for long distances which in most cases can expose them to the risk of infection. At some water sources they would be crowded and this puts them at the risk of contracting Covid-19,” he added.
In recent weeks, rural setups across the country including Chivi, Zaka and Chiredzi have been recording an increase in the number of Covid-19 positive cases.
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 dry spells.
Villagers of Mabhiza area in ward 23 of Chivi South travel for more than 2km to Mutumbwi garden where they fetch water at a nearby borehole.
As a result, villagers in the area are not able to provide enough safe water at hand washing points popularly known as chigubhu-giya.
These points were introduced as a way of trying to curb the spread of the novel virus but scarcity of water has forced villagers to ignore this safety precaution and it has also forced them to abandon their gardening activities hence affecting food security.
Introduction of community gardens which are powered by solar boreholes can help to address the gendered impact of climate change in rural communities.
Covid-19 is intensifying the problems created by climate change on rural women whose food security systems and livelihood options are running out.