Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Remember history lessons about the Industrial Revolution – about how the rise of city based factory jobs, and more efficient farming practices, caused mass migration from farms to cities?
Now a similar mass migration is occurring in the poorer parts of Africa. But some green charities are doing everything in their power, to stop it from happening.
Zimbabwe: Climate Change Opens Up Migration Floodgates
Two years ago, 35-year-old Bernard Chingawo was a successful small scale tobacco farmer in Mt Darwin, Mashonaland Central.
Now he wakes up early in the morning to buy an assortment of wares from a Chinese shop in Harare for resale.
Still in Mashonaland Central, 41-year-old Titinotenda Chaora, a single mother of one who used to eke out a living from buying tomatoes in Chinhamora communal lands for resale in Bindura town, has none to sell today.
She is considering relocating to Harare.
Sebastian Kasirai, the village head of Murikitiko in Gutu, says people are leaving their homes in droves.
“There is nothing to stop them from leaving the villages, how would they survive if the rains are not falling and there is no food?” he asked rhetorically.
In the Matabeleland region, most people are relocating to neighbouring Botswana and South Africa in search of jobs to fend for their families back home.
“There is little research to establish the extent of climate change – induced migration and its impact on rural people. But certainly, the movements will put pressure on already strained urban authorities. Local authorities need to act swiftly to avoid a situation whereby services like water and sewer provisions, demand for power and other essential services overpower them,” Zvigadza added while equating the Zimbabwean situation to that of Europe and America where millions of people are migrating as economic refugee or climate refugees.
Responding to climate change effectively means taking action to reduce the threats and prevent people from moving from their areas.
Oxfam which is also funding projects in the drought-prone Gutu rural, found that engaging local communities in the design and implementation of climate change adaptation activities – for example, creating small scale irrigation schemes, grazing areas – holds considerable potential to reduce migration.
The point the author misses is migration is often a good thing. I’m not disputing the good intentions of the people and charities who are interfering. But all these poor rural people who have moved to cities, are embracing their new lives voluntarily.
For many people, moving off the farm might even be their only hope of a longer lifespan.
Running a farm with primitive tools is awfully hard work, likely too hard for someone past their prime. In dirt poor rural economies, people who can’t work starve to death – there is very little spare capacity to take care of the elderly and sick. Zimbabweans have a shockingly short life expectancy.
But running an urban street stall, like Bernard Chingawo, is the kind of work which older people who are past their prime can do.
To stand in the way of progress, to try to prevent people from undertaking what in Western experience is a vital step, towards building a modern, wealthy industrial economy, with all the consumerist and health advantages which we take for granted, is simply wrong.